The restaurant industry will enter its 16th consecutive year of real growth in 2007 according to the National Restaurant Association’s 2007 Restaurant Industry Forecast.

Industry sales growth will continue to be strongest in the Western and the Southern U.S., driven by growth in local economies, disposable income, and population. With expected national sales of $537 billion, a total economic impact of more than $1.3 trillion, and 12.8 million employees in 2007, the nation’s 935,000 restaurants are a driving force in national and state economies and job creation.

Among the states with the most growth in industry sales, Nevada is expected to lead the nation in sales growth next year while Arizona will post the largest growth in jobs by 2017.

Nationally, restaurant-industry sales are expected to increase by 5.0 percent in 2007 or 2.1 percent real (inflation-adjusted) growth. Among the states, Nevada is expected to lead the nation with 8.1 percent sales growth, Arizona follows with 7.6 percent, Florida with 7.1 percent, Texas with 6.9 percent, and Idaho with 6.5 percent. The highest restaurant-sales volume is expected in California where sales are expected to reach $54.2 billion, Texas at $32.0 billion, New York at $27.0 billion, Florida at $25.7 billion, and Illinois at $17.8 billion.

With the number of restaurant locations in the United States growing to 935,000 in 2007, the number of restaurant jobs will also increase; the industry is expected to add two million jobs in the next 10 years. Arizona is expected to show the highest restaurant job growth by the year 2017 at 25.9 percent followed by Nevada at 25.0 percent, South Carolina at 23.9 percent, Utah at 23.1 percent, and Florida at 23.0 percent.

In 2007, California is projected to have the largest number of restaurant-industry employees (1,416,100), followed by Texas (939,800), Florida (864,500), New York (650,900), and Ohio (553,100).