As the US economy experiences a slowdown, turnover in the US$258bn restaurant and bar sector is suffering; the first casualties of consumers’ cutbacks in non-essential spending.

Poor sector sales are pointing to the biggest slowdown in ten years, with 2001 results so far pointing to the slowest rate of growth since the 1991 recession. According to figures from the US Census Bureau, year-on-year, for the 12 months ending January 2001, restaurant sales had risen 4.4%. By the end of July 2001 however, the 12-month growth rate had slumped to just 2.4%.

Market analysts have suggested that times are harder for the upmarket eateries as consumers become more cost-conscious, but at the lower end of the scale, fastfood joints under the McDonald’s or Burger King banner also reported flat or negative sales figures compared to the same store sales last year.