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Restaurant owners concerned about food costs

The cost of food is the top challenge cited by restaurateurs as they prepare for 2013, the National Restaurant Association said in its “2013 Restaurant Industry Forecast” released this week.

After food costs, the economy and increasing health care costs are major concerns, the group said.

The NRA said it would remain engaged in debates on the farm bill, food imports and energy rules to try to make sure that government policies don’t contribute to rising food prices, and urged lawmakers “to forge a path around the ‘fiscal cliff’ and agree on a plan for longer-term fiscal sustainability instead of short-term fixes.”

The association also noted that that the restaurant industry is the nation’s second-largest private sector employer, proving jobs for 13.1 million people, or 10 percent of the total U.S. workforce. The NRA said it expects the restaurant industry to increase jobs by 2.4 percent in 2013, nearly a full percentage point above the projected 1.5 percent gain in total employment.