Table ready at an upscale restaurant
Table ready at an upscale restaurant - 
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Scott Jagow: We get an important economic number today: How much Americans eat out. The National Restaurant Association gives its annual forecast for next year. More now from Jeremy Hobson.

Jeremy Hobson: You'd think with all the talk of recession, people would be eating out less. Not so, says the National Restaurant Association. The group forecasts 4.5 percent growth next year.

Hudson Riehle is the Association's head of research:

Hudson Riehle: Twenty years ago, it used to be what happened to the national economy happened to the restaurant industry. But the restaurant industry has truly become such an economic juggernaut that what happens to the industry actually affects the national economic infrastructure.

Tyler Cowen teaches economics at George Mason University:

Cowen: The sector in any case has been moving toward lower price and greater convenience. And if economic times are getting worse, that's the direction customers will be going in.

Evidence of that trend can be found on the list of 2008's hottest food items, based on a survey of 1,200 chefs. Coming in at number one: Bite-size desserts. At the bottom of the list? Soda.

I'm Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

Follow Jeremy Hobson at @jeremyhobson