Restaurant industry sales figures for July show a decline in guest counts, but also reveal the 13th consecutive month of positive comparable store sales, according to data from Black Box Intelligence in its Restaurant Industry Snapshot report. The company’s analysis was based on weekly sales from 22,000 restaurant units and 120 brands representing $55 billion dollars in annual revenue.
In July, same-store sales grew 1.6 percent, 0.5 percent below June’s growth.
“Even though sales growth slowed slightly from the previous month, results still reflect positive growth for the industry. Even more encouraging for chain restaurants is the fact that the industry experienced a small improvement in same-store traffic and relied less on increasing guest checks to achieve the positive July numbers,” says Victor Fernandez, executive director of insights and knowledge for TDn2K, parent company of Black Box Intelligence. “However, the industry continues to experience declining guest counts and this remains a top concern.”
Other key figures for the month include:
• Same-store traffic fell by 1.2 percent, which actually represents a 0.3 percent improvement from June’s results. Although still negative, July’s numbers represent the best traffic results in the last six months.
• Average guest checks during the first six months of 2015 grew 3.4 percent year-over-year—a result of increased menu prices, promotions and “shifts in sales mix and type, particularly an acceleration in to-go and catering sales,” according to the report. This trend did dip somewhat in July, with average guest checks growing just 2.8 percent year-over-year.
• The Western region had the best performance in July. Same-store sales grew 3.7 percent, and traffic grew 0.3 percent.
• New York-New Jersey fared the worst last month, with a drop of 0.7 percent in same-store sales and a fall of 2.4 percent in traffic.
Sister company White Box Social Intelligence also examined social media related to restaurants and tracked three key guest satisfaction attributes (food, service, and intent to return) from a sample of 6.1 million social media mentions during July. Their findings include:
• Food is overwhelmingly the most common attribute mentioned in social media posts about restaurants.
• Service mentions are increasing while food mentions are decreasing. While 88 percent of all mentions were food-based in January and February of this year, that figure fell to 76 percent during June and July. Meanwhile, only 8 percent of all mentions were based on service at the beginning of the year, but that percentage has grown significantly to 20 percent and 17 percent during June and July, respectively.
• For the second consecutive month, the segment that generated the highest percentage of positive online mentions based on food and intent to return was casual dining.
• For service, the segment that achieved the highest percentage of positive mentions during July was fast casual. “This represents a departure from the trend of full-service segments, primarily casual dining and upscale casual/fine dining, being the top-performing segments based on percentage of positive service mentions,” say the White Box analysts.
“July seems to have been characterized with the economy once again showing mixed signals regarding its strength,” says Fernandez. “Consumer confidence fell compared with June, albeit still at levels much higher than in recent years.”
Contact Gina Ragone at [email protected]