This summer, members of the Vertical IQ team are hitting the road for lots of fun adventures, and you’re invited — well, virtually at least! The Vertical IQ Summer Road Trip Blog Series will give you the 411 on all of the cool places our Vertical IQers are exploring … while also sharing ways to get the most out of Industry Intelligence. Here’s to making summer memories!

I love a good weekend getaway with friends, so a recent trip to Chicago was exactly what I needed to relax, have some fun, and recharge. It was an adventure packed full of joyful moments and gorgeous views. I must say: my friends and I were “blown away” by The Windy City!

During our visit, we tried to cover all of the essential Chicago bases including a baseball game. Despite the Chicago Cubs being away, we still got to see a great ballgame. The Schaumburg Boomers are a minor league team that plays in a Chicago suburb, and we were all wowed by their stellar stadium and even better team spirit!

We also enjoyed other prototypically touristy activities including a riverboat tour (talk about beautiful!), visiting the recently reopened Cloud Gate (affectionately called “The Bean”), seeing awe-inspiring Lake Michigan, and shopping … lots of shopping!

But of course, one of the best parts about any trip to Chicago is the food. From Chicago-style deep-dish pizza joints to elegant steakhouses to the city’s famous hotdog stands — with plenty of delicious options for us gluten-free folks, my friends and I relished in the variety and caliber of dining throughout our stay.

Getting a Local Perspective with Localized Industry Data

Chicago has long been known for its fabulous restaurants. More recently, a spotlight has been shone on the city’s foodie scene by the hit TV show “The Bear.” But even if you aren’t a fan of Carmy and the other fictional chefs at The Original Beef of Chicagoland restaurant, you might still be interested to learn about how the restaurant industry in Chicago-Naperville, Ill., stacks up. To learn more, I reviewed the Localized Industry Data section of the Restaurants Industry Profile on Vertical IQ.

Covering 300 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs), plus more than 3,100 counties across the U.S., Localized Industry Data offers an up-close look at the nuances of how a particular industry is faring at the local level. Whether your client is considering a business expansion or you are assessing lending or investing risks for your organization, this type of highly focused Industry Intelligence can be extremely valuable and insightful.

The Chicago restaurant industry is still “hot”

As of Q3 2023, there were nearly 11,800 restaurants in Chicago-Naperville, a number that increased 1.8% over the prior year despite the local population shrinking by 0.6% and the local economy growing by only 1.7% (as compared to the national average of 1.9%).

Although the COVID-19 pandemic did impact the nation’s eagerness and ability to eat out, Chicago’s restaurant scene has shown resilience. In 2019, pre-pandemic, Chicago averaged 161.2 restaurants per 100,000 people, whereas the national average that year was 154.6 per 100,000. Every year since, including during the pandemic, Chicago has had more restaurants per capita than the national average.

What’s more, even as the pandemic waned in 2022, Chicago still had more restaurants per capita than the national average: 159.7 in Chicago as compared to 156.9 nationally (based on the most-recent available data). In fact, in the three years last reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021 to 2023), the number of restaurants in Chicago increased by 407.

More Chicago restaurant jobs … but crumby pay

The Windy City’s restaurants are also adding jobs to the economy. In Q3 2023, restaurants in Chicago-Naperville averaged 220,347 employees, which is a 3.5% increase from the previous year.

Restaurant wages in Chicago tell a conflicting story, however. In Q3 2023, the annual wages per employee in Chicago-Naperville’s restaurants averaged $30,268. That’s actually a 1.0% decrease from the previous year. Annual wages in Chicago were higher than the U.S. restaurant industry average of $26,567, but the cost of living in Chicago is also higher. For instance, monthly rent there averaged $1,330 in 2022 as compared to the national average of $1,300.

Restaurant employees are also among the U.S. economy’s lower-paid workers. And Chicago is no exception. There, the average pay for a restaurant worker is $30,268 — well-below the overall Chicago-Naperville average per capita income of $73,589 for 2022. In fact, the overall per capita average income for Chicago was 112% of the U.S. average in 2022. I guess that explains in part why so many people are able to afford to eat out in the Windy City!

Check out Vertical IQ’s Localized Industry Data to learn more about the nuances of an industry within a particular geographic area, and whether it might be a vertical you’d like to target.

Ready to roll up my sleeves for another Chicago adventure!

My friends and I had a fabulous stay in Chicago, and I look forward to my next trip so I can explore even more must-visit spots and delectable restaurants. While I still believe Raleigh is the best city in America, Chicago might be a close second — especially if you’re in a gluten-free pizza mood!

If you want to learn more about how to build stronger relationships and sales through actionable, convenient, and focused Industry Intelligence that covers more than 97% of the U.S. economy and Canada, contact us today.

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