Restaurant industry same-store sales remained flat in November, mainly because guest traffic tapered off from prior months, but operators remained bullish on sales outlooks for the next six months, according to the latest NRN-MillerPulse survey.
The December survey found that industrywide same-store sales rose 2.5 percent in November, in line with the 2.5-percent increase in October. However, sales did slow slightly on a two-year basis, rising 5.3 percent in November versus a 6.3-percent increase in October.
MillerPulse, an operator survey exclusive to Nation’s Restaurant News, polled around 70 restaurant operators in December regarding November sales, profit trends, performance and outlooks. Respondents cover all regions of the country and represent the quick-service, casual-dining, fine-dining and fast-casual segments. Those surveyed in December represented restaurants that booked about 17 percent of industry sales.
Same-store sales for quick-service restaurants, which include both fast-food and fast-casual brands, increased 3.4 percent in November, compared with 3.6 percent in October, and sales for full-service restaurants, which include both fine-dining and casual-dining brands, remained consistent with a 1.6-percent increase in November, compared with a 1.4-percent uptick in the prior month.
The modest same-store sales numbers are a reflection of a dip in guest traffic, which increased just 0.1 percent during the Thanksgiving month, compared with a 1.4-percent increase in October. The biggest concern was a traffic decline in the full-service category, said Larry Miller, restaurant securities analyst at RBC Capital Markets in Atlanta and creator of the monthly MillerPulse surveys and research.
“This is the first negative traffic figure we’ve seen in full-service in over a year,” Miller said. “That can be concerning going into next year.”
Guest traffic for full-service restaurants fell 1.1 percent in November compared with a slight increase in October. And while quick-service traffic increased 0.9 percent in November, it was a significantly less substantial gain than the nearly 3.0 percent increase reported in October.
With the holiday shopping season, Miller said he would’ve expected traffic to be better, but the numbers show that consumers remain careful how and where they dine out.
“People came out for discounts in retail and they looked for restaurant value as well,” he said. “This is why we are seeing a widening differential between quick service and full service.”