Wisconsin Restaurant Association Header Top Menu Dining Guide WRA Gift Certificates ServSafe Expo Home
WRA Statistics photo
Industry Statistics & Trends

Wisconsin Restaurant Statistics
Restaurants are a driving force in Wisconsin’s economy. Our industry drives jobs in the state and builds careers for thousands of people.

  • Wisconsin has 12,121 food services and drinking places. (1)

  • Food and beverage establishments in the state register a total of $7.3 billion in sales annually. (1)

  • Every $1 spent in Wisconsin eating and drinking places generates an additional $1.00 in sales for the state economy. (1)

Restaurants are integral to the economy, producing tremendous tax revenues for the state.

  • The “Food Services and Drinking Places” industry is the largest private-sector employer in the state. (2)

  • Restaurants account for 254,100 jobs in Wisconsin. (1)

  • 1 in 10 working Wisconsinites is a restaurant employee. (1)

  • Second largest piece of Wisconsin's $12.3 billion tourism industry, food and beverage constitutes 27% of travel spending.

Restaurants create jobs in Wisconsin, ranking among the state’s fastest-growing industries.

  • Number three on a list of industries with the most new jobs. (2)

  • 6.1% job growth is expected by 2023 (projected). (1)

Wisconsin restaurants are overwhelmingly independent small businesses.

  • 91% of eating and drinking places have fewer than 50 employees. (3)

  • And, 2 in 3 establishments employ less than 20 workers. (4)

  • 89.7% of fullservice restaurants in Wisconsin indicated that they are independently owned. (5)

  • Most franchise establishments in the state are independently owned and operated and think of themselves as independent small businesses.

Did You Know?

  • Nearly half of all adults have worked in the restaurant industry at some point during their lives. More than 1 in 4 adults got their first job experience in a restaurant. And, more than half of current restaurant industry employees are under the age of 30. (6)

  • 8 in 10 restaurant owners say they got their first industry job in an entry-level position. (3)

  • Restaurants operate on narrow profit margins – average profit margins (net income before taxes) are only 3% to 9%. (6)
    • Labor costs alone range between 28% and 34% of total restaurant sales. (6)
    • Food and beverage costs represent about 33 cents of every dollar in restaurant sales. (3)
    • It only takes a small increase in costs (labor, food, utilities, etc.) to wipe out a restaurant’s bottom line.

  • Every $1 million dollars spent in Wisconsin’s eating and drinking places generates an additional 29.0 jobs in the state. (1)

Industry Trends

What’s Hot for Menus
From the NRA “What’s Hot” Chefs Survey, 2013.

  • Locally-sourced meats, seafood and produce
  • Healthful kid's meals and children's nutrition
  • Sustainability
  • New cuts of meat
  • Hyper-local (ex: restaurant gardens)
  • Gluten-free / food allergy conscious
  • Farm / estate branded items

What’s Hot for Drinks
From the NRA "What's Hot in 2013 Alcohol" Survey.

  • Onsite barrel-aged drinks
  • Food and liquor / cocktail pairings
  • Culinary cocktails
  • Micro-distilled / artisan liquor
  • Locally produced spirits
  • Locally sourced produce
  • Beer sommeliers / Cicerones

Hot Topics: Local Foods and Healthy Lifestyles
Business Regulations and Key Issues
Common Restaurant Terminology
Members Only A-Z Topics, Resources and Archived Articles
Listings of WRA Restaurant and Supplier Members
Questions? Ask the WRA Hotline TeamNRA logo

The National Restaurant Association (NRA) conducts research on industry operations, human resources, consumer, economic and analysis of industry-related statistics. Visit the NRA website to purchase research publications.

  1. National Restaurant Association (NRA), based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau. Released 2011. Eating and drinking place employment represents about three-fourths of the total restaurant and foodservice workforce.
  2. Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development data: 2008-2018 Industry Projections.
  3. NRA Statistic. Released 2009.
  4. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Career Guide to Industries, 2010-11 Edition.
  5. From a national survey by Deloitte & Touche, LLC in conjunction with the NRA.
  6. 2008 Restaurant Industry Operations Report by Deloitte & Touche, LLC in conjunction with the NRA.

Laws & Regulations
Ask the Experts
Industry Alerts
WR Magazine
Statistics & Trends
Supplier Goods & Services
Search WI Restaurants
Calendar of Events

WRA Media Contact:

Tracy Kosbau
Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations

Expo ad

Wisconsin Restaurant Association logo WRA
Join WRA
Members Only
Online Store
Buyer's Guide
Dining Guide
      Industry Suppliers
Join WRA as a Supplier
Supplier Benefits
Exhibit at the Expo
Advertise in WR
Request Info
Get Adobe(R) Reader

Wisconsin Restaurant Association • 2801 Fish Hatchery Rd. • Madison, WI 53713 • Tel: 608.270.9950 • Toll Free: 800.589.3211 • FAX: 608.270.9960