According to Bob Derrington, an analyst with Morgan Keegan & Co., it’s way too soon to tell if there will be a restaurant sales impact from the recent Swine Flu outbreak in Mexico that killed more than 150 and sickened many more here in the U.S. It could be another story, however, if travel is restricted in and out of the country.
The most vulnerable of the dining segments, he says, is casual dining because customers may avoid sitting in dining spaces and opt to frequent quick service outlets with drive-thru windows. Also vulnerable may be the Mexican-border states due to their proximity to the outbreak. “While some restaurant chain sales could be affected, we believe the likelihood is that ultimately the outbreak will be contained and chain sales will improve, especially in the second half of 2009 as the industry laps the materially weaker trends of late 2008,” Derrington reports.
This is good news especially for chefs, many of whom are mad about pork. Keep in mind, just in case it comes up, Swine Flue is not related to hogs or transmitted by pork.