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Spring’s Economic Indicators: Dining Out and Botox

What do Americans do when they’re feeling good about the economy? Apparently, go out to dinner and get a Botox injection.

In the same week that the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index found that American confidence in the economy rose for the first time in five weeks, both the restaurant and cosmetic surgery industries report business is booming.

Shopping for deals

“The restaurant industry is seeing slow and steady improvement as consumers begin to spend a bit more and the economy continues to improve,” Agustin Carcoba, president and CEO of GE Capital, Franchise Finance said at the Restaurant Leadership Conference last week.

Half of restaurant operators recently surveyed by the National Restaurant Association are planning capital expenditures in the first half of 2011. The association predicts the overall food service industry will see its first real growth in four years, resulting in sales up to $604 billion.

In fact, fast-food restaurant McDonald’s announced this week that it will be adding 50,000 employees to its work force this spring, with jobs ranging from part-time positions to supervisory roles such as restaurant manager.

McDonald’s isn’t the only restaurant hiring . A survey of the largest 150 operators and top 100 chains that is included in GE Capital’s Industry Review found almost half (44.4 percent) of respondents are concentrating on expanding within their current markets.

However, consumers are more price-sensitive than before the economic downturn, and are seeking out bargains and using social media to research restaurants and find deals, GE Capital said.

Spending on beauty

In addition to treating themselves to a night out, Americans are also increasingly spending on cosmetic surgery , according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), which said this week that plastic surgery procedures increased by nearly 10 percent from 2009 to 2010 with more than 9.3 million surgical and nonsurgical procedures taking place at a cost of nearly $11 billion in 2010. Patients between the ages of 35 and 50 accounted for 44 percent of the total, the majority of any age group.

"We were surprised and thrilled to see increases in a variety of areas because it points to a positive change in economic indicators for 2010-2011," said Grant Stevens, a cosmetic surgeon and media spokesperson for ASAPS.

Stevens noted that requests for liposuction, eyelid surgery and abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) topped the list of most requested surgical procedures. Botox, a less expensive alternative to surgery, was far and away the most requested nonsurgical procedure, Stevens said.

Interestingly, ASAPS' study found an increase in the number of men and of minorities seeking cosmetic procedures. “Nineteen percent of the patients belong to an ethnic minority," Stevens said. "That’s a major uptick, since traditionally many surgery practices have catered to white women. It’s great news.” He added that laser procedures, including laser hair removal, as well as chemical peels and breast reduction, are also popular.


Jeanette Mulvey

Jeanette has been writing about business for more than 20 years. She has written about every kind of entrepreneur from hardware store owners to fashion designers. Previously she was a manager of internal communications for Home Depot. Her journalism career began in local newspapers. She has a degree in American Studies from Rutgers University. Follow her on Twitter @jeanettebnd.