The restaurant industry in Texas is expected to post 4.7% sales growth in 2014 to reach $42.5 billion, according to the National Restaurant Association's (NRA) Restaurant Industry 2014 forecast and trends report.
The report further states that Texas restaurants will employ 1.1 million next year and create an additional 170,800 jobs in the next decade.
In Abilene, people are seeing an influx of restaurants opening. Last week, McAlister's opened their second location on North 10 & Judge Ely. Two weeks before, the third Golden Chick location in Abilene opened their doors on US Hwy 351.
More recently, Firehouse Subs has taken out a $450,000 building permit to begin construction on the vacant space near Target on Ridgemont Drive.
"The state itself has a lot of people wanting to work and wants to see things grow and expand," Roger Williams, Golden Chick supervisor said.
Local Abilene restaurants say they're already seeing an increase in sales since 2013. Oscar Avila of Oscar's Mexican Restaurant says his business has seen an 8% increase. They've been open for nearly a decade and watched many businesses slowly surround his restaurant. Avila attributes it to the oil boom in Midland and Odessa.
"More and more businesses are popping up with this oil boom," Avila says. "It's starting to show here in Abilene with all of the restaurants so I think it's exciting for everyone."
Co-owner of Abi-Haus, Jimbo Jackson, has also seen a sales increase. His restaurant recently celebrated one-year as a business and Jackson says customer traffic has been consistent.
"We have seen around a 10% increase," Jackson said. "Right now it's slow because it's January so the more business we get, the more we get to hire people."
NRA says this year will be the 5th consecutive year of restaurant industry sales growth despite a continued challenging economic landscape.
2014 will also mark the 15th straight year in which restaurant industry employment growth will outpace overall employment growth, NRA says.
However, businesses will continue to face a range of challenges such as food and labor costs.
For more information about the NRA's 2014 Restaurant Industry Forecast, visit Restaurant.org/Forecast.