Macke officials, who just last week boasted of an 18 percent increase in profits for the year, said yesterday that the company expects first quarter earnings to level off or dip because of reduced patronage of its restaurants.

Blaming inflation in the form of rising food prices and high gasoline costs which keep many potential customers at home, company officials said they are now attempting to "regain our lost customers" through management changes, new advertising and promotions.

"The whole (restaurant) industry is suffering from reduced patronage," Macke Chairman Meyer Gelfand told the Washington Society of Investment Analysts yesterday."

Macke, which specializes in vending machines, coin operated laundries, institutional food services and office furniture sales, bought the Family Fish House restaurant chain in January 1978 for $7.75 million. The chain specializes in moderately priced seafood.

One analyst asked Gelfand why the company entered the seafood restaurant business in the first place.

"Seafood was growing at a faster rate than steak houses and other things," Gelfand replied. "Since we obtained the chain things have changed, and now we're just riding through a difficult time."

Food service constitutes 83 percent of the company's revenue and of that, vending and contract feeding services amount to 47 percent, Gelfand said. "The long term outlook for vending and food contracting is good," Gelfand said.

Herman said following the meeting that it is too early to specify how much of a profit decline the company expects during the first quarter.