CHICAGO — The key to unlocking restaurant sales growth in the New Year?

Women, for one.

With big spending power and less restaurant patronage than their male counterparts, female consumers represent a growth opportunity for operators, according to Chicago-based Mintel, a market research firm, which has identified five trends set to drive food service sales in 2014.

With an estimated $438 billion in sales this year, the restaurant industry has enjoyed a steady streak of slow growth over the past few years.

As restaurants respond to evolving consumer dynamics by leveraging technology, transparency and speedier service models, sales are expected to increase by 5.9% in 2014.

Click the slideshow for Mintel’s five key food service trends in the coming year.