The restaurant industry is set to benefit most from increased consumer spending in 2011, but will be challenged by higher commodity costs, according to the NRN a.m. 2011 Restaurant Operator Survey.

More than 130 subscribers to NRN a.m. — the daily e-newsletter from Nation’s Restaurant News — took an online survey last month, helping to shed light on what the industry is expecting in the year ahead. Responses showed decisively that restaurant executives predict 2011 to be an improvement over 2010, especially when it comes to their sales and profit.

Unit growth will remain a challenge for many, the results showed, and restaurateurs were split on whether to invest in redesigns, technology or equipment upgrades in 2011. Workforce reductions moved off the agenda, as respondents will either keep staff levels the same or hire in 2011, and value menus and social media will remain focal points.

NRN will explore the results in a series of articles this week, first looking at what respondents chose as the industry’s biggest challenges and opportunities. On Wednesday, expect a look at sales, profit and unit growth.

Read more: here.