Same Store Sales Increase in August

Driven by Fast Casual, the restaurant industry posted strong same store sales in August according to the Black Box Intelligence report.  Here are some of the stats from the Nation’s Restaurant News article:

  • 1.7% increase in same store sales in August
  • YTD same store sales up 2.2%
  • The industry can post it’s 5th straight quarter of same store sales growth this quarter
  • Average monthly growth has been 2.2% since last year
  • While traffic growth is still negative, it has been improving over the last few months
  • Top region in August was California with a 3.5% increase in same store sales and only .5% decrease in traffic
  • The NY/NJ region was the worst with a 1.3% decline in sales and 3.1% decline in traffic

We talked about this a few weeks ago, but job growth still remains strong across the board for the restaurant industry, despite some of the increases in minimum wage.

I have copied the full NRN article below:

The restaurant industry posted another relatively strong month in August, as both same-store sales and traffic growth improved over July, according to data reported by TDn2K’s Black Box Intelligence through The Restaurant Industry Snapshot, based on weekly sales from over 22,000 restaurant units and 120 brands representing $55 billion dollars in annual revenue.

Source: Black Box Intelligence, August 2015

Same-store sales rose 1.7 percent in August, a 0.1-percent improvement. With these latest results, the industry is on track to post its fifth consecutive quarter of positive same-store sales growth during the third quarter, the first time this has occurred in the last three years. Meanwhile, year-to-date same-store sales have risen 2.2 percent, consistent with Black Box Intelligence’s prediction for 2015.

“There are three factors that should be encouraging for the restaurant industry”, said Victor Fernandez, executive director of insights and knowledge for TDn2K. “First, we have been experiencing consistent, positive same-store sales growth since August 2014. The last time we had a comparable run in terms of consecutive months of positive sales growth was in the period of 2011 through early 2012. Furthermore, every month since August of last year has posted same-store sales growth above 1 percent; the average for the period has been a significant 2.2-percent growth in sales year-over-year. Second, although same-store traffic growth continues to be negative and remains the top concern for the industry, we have now reported three consecutive months in which traffic results have been improving. This also means that the growth in sales for the industry for the last couple of months has been relying less on increases in average guest checks and more on improving guest retention. Finally, on a two-year sales growth basis, this quarter is surpassing the first two quarters of 2015 with a +2.8-percent for the first two months of Q3 compared to +2.0 percent in Q1 and a +1.8 percent in Q2. This would represent the second-best quarter on a two-year basis since Q1 of 2012.”

Same-store traffic fell 1.1 percent during August, which represents a 0.1-percent improvement compared with July. Per person average guest check grew by 2.7 percent and 2.8 percent during August and July, respectively. This represents a shift from the average 3.4-percent growth in guest checks reported for all months during the first two quarters of the year.

The fundamentals in the economy continue to remain favorable for continued growth in restaurant sales: the labor market, even if showing some signs of slowing down from the growth rates posted in recent months, continues to add jobs. Income and consumer spending rose in July, according to the latest published numbers. Finally, despite short-term fluctuations in consumer sentiment, consumers are more optimistic today than they were a year ago.

“There has been some concern expressed due to the sharp drops and volatility in the stock market in recent days,” Fernandez said. “However, we believe that at least in the next couple of months, the effect of these fluctuations will not affect restaurant spending much. Most consumers perceive these changes as affecting their long-term wealth and not necessarily their disposable income today. However, if the underlying concerns regarding the global economy are real and sustained, then they could become a concern for the industry.”

Source: Black Box Intelligence, August 2015

The best performing region during August was California, with same-store sales growth of 3.5 percent and a traffic decrease of 0.5 percent. Considering the difference in check average for California, it appears the price increases taken to offset minimum wage increases are part of the equation behind this strong same-store sales number. However, the traffic also suggests that the California consumer has a strong appetite to dine out.

For the second consecutive month, the worst performing region in the country was New York-New Jersey, with a 1.3-percent decline in same-store sales and a 3.1-percent drop in traffic growth.

August was also a good month at the market level. One hundred thirty-seven, or 71 percent, of the 193 DMAs currently tracked weekly by Black Box Intelligence posted positive growth in their same-store sales during the month.

Improving economic conditions have boosted sales, but are also tied to a tightening labor market in which recruiting and retention have once again become major challenges for restaurants. Job growth accelerated at restaurant chains during July, according to TDn2K’s People Report. During the month, the restaurant chain industry’s number of jobs grew by 4.4 percent year-over-year, while the past twelve months averaged 3.4 percent.

In addition to the pressures of recruiting enough new employees, restaurant companies also continue to face increasing turnover rates at both the restaurant management and hourly employee levels. Rolling 12-month hourly employee turnover increased again during July. The industry has now experienced 23 consecutive months of rising turnover rates. Restaurant management turnover, which had been increasing steadily during 11 of the last 12 months, stabilized during July and remained at the same rate as in June. Flat turnover notwithstanding, turnover rates at all position levels within restaurants are at very high levels not reported since before the recession.

According to TDn2K’s White Box Social Intelligence, of the three key guest satisfaction attributes tracked (“food”, “service” and “intent to return”) from a sample of 6.6 million social media mentions during August, the conversation tends to center around food when consumers talk about restaurant brands online. Seventy-eight percent of posts mentioned food during this month. The second most commonly mentioned attribute continues to be service, at 16 percent of all social media mentions.

When consumers mentioned restaurant brands online during August, the attribute generating  the highest percentage of positive mentions was “intent to return,” with 39 percent of all of mentions, a significant 7-percent growth in the percentage of mentions that were positive when compared with July. As a comparison, about 31 percent of food mentions and 18 percent of service mentions were positive during August.

TDn2K (Transforming Data into Knowledge) is the parent company of People Report, Black Box Intelligence and White Box Social Intelligence. People Report provides service-sector human capital and workforce analytics for its members on a monthly basis. Black Box Intelligence provides weekly financial and market level data for the restaurant industry. White Box Social Intelligence delivers unparalleled consumer insights and reveals online brand health. Together they report on over 32,000 restaurant units, over 1 million employees and $55 billion in sales. They are also the producers of two leading restaurant industry conferences: Summer Brand Camp and the Global Best Practices Conference, each held annually in Dallas.

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