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From fast food to fine dining, business is up at restaurants

dining out
Photo: By Kevin P. Casey, for USA TODAY

America's appetite for eating out is starting to rumble again.

Three years after the $580 billion restaurant industry saw its harshest downturn in decades, there are signals that the worst may be over for an industry that suffered as people saved by eating out less.

"The glow is off the idea that cooking is fun," says Ron Paul, president of Technomic, a research specialist. "Consumers are returning to their old habits." Restaurant business is up in all sectors — from fast-food to casual to tablecloth. The dust began to clear in the third quarter, Paul says, when overall industry same-store sales went positive, following three consecutive years of negative numbers. (Read more)