Quick-service and snack and beverage restaurant sales are back on track for moderate growth, according to “Foodservice Landscape in the U.S.: Chain Limited-Service Restaurants,” a new report from market research firm Packaged Facts.

Packaged Facts estimates that limited-service restaurant sales will reach $188.1 billion in 2013, up 4.9 percent over 2012, while sales at snack and beverage establishments will rise 4.6 percent to $29.1 billion. 

Incremental improvement in macroeconomic drivers, a brighter consumer outlook, modest improvements in same-store sales, store reimaging programs, and aggressive menu innovation and limited-time offer (LTO) experimentation are all playing a positive role in the industry.

Among consumers, nonetheless, price remains top of mind. According to Packaged Facts survey data, 68 percent of limited-service restaurant users say low price influences their decision to go to a fast-food restaurant, and 24 percent cite it as “most important.” 

This continued price sensitivity reflects the fact that macroeconomic improvements have not lifted all demographic boats, and some key fast-food guest demographics—including households earning under $50,000 annually, African Americans, and 18–24-year-olds—have not benefited proportionately.

Quick-service restaurant operators, which also face highly competitive prepared foods offerings in grocery stores, will thus continue to have limited pricing power and to face guest traffic challenges into 2014. 

“In an environment where stealing share is key to growth, menu innovation and keeping up with broader nutritional trends remain essential,” says David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts.

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