Predictions for the restaurant industry in 2015 are optimistic, but somewhat guarded.  The U.S. economy surged ahead 5 percent during 2014’s third quarter, the strongest three-month period since 2003.  That followed a 4.6-percent jump the previous quarter.  Meanwhile, the National Restaurant Association’s(NRA) Expectations Index, which measures operators’ six-month outlook for same-store sales and other measures, stood at 102.1 in November, down only slightly from October’s 102.5–its highest level since 2007.  Anything over 100 represents expansion.

However, consumer do remain concerned about their personal finances.  An NRA survey found that nearly seven in 10 adults say they are holding back on spending, demonstrating the degree to which the “Great Recession”influenced their psyches.  “The impact is still very real for many consumers,” says NRA Chief Economist Bruce Grindly.  “I do think their mindset is improving, though, and this will translate into more liberal spending habits as they become more confident in their own personal financial situations.”

The NPD Group predicts that restaurant traffic will increase 1 percent in 2014, an improvement over a flat 2014 guest count.  “We have to recognize consumers needs are changing, and we have to stay in tune with these changes in order to drive traffic,” said Bonnie Riggs, senior restaurant analyst for NPD.  “But as much as things change, they are going to stay the same, because the pillars of good business still apply.”

One of the restaurant trends that will continue in 2015 is the idea of healthy eating, especially the “do-it-yourself” style.  And, customers expectations for DIY health is expected to climb even higher.  “There are people heavily into gluten-free, who care about genetically modified organisms, who want low-fat or organic items, but there is no consensus about what is a healthy diet,” say Rita Negrete, editor  of the research firm Technomic.  Still, “more people really are trying to eat more healthfully, and that becomes an issue for restaurants in an era of shrinking menus.    Health-minded consumers often gravitate to places that allow them to customizes their orders, thus choosing their own healthful options.