The Restaurant Industry Snapshot is out for May and the news is not very encouraging.
Industry comparable-store sales came in at a 0.4-percent dip and traffic came in at a 3.0-percent decline. This follows April’s positive 1.4-percent increase in comparable sales and 2.1-percent decrease in traffic.
So what does this mean for our industry?
Let’s start with the long-standing premise that meeting the benchmark was, at a minimum, a good thing since coming out of the Great Recession’s trail of negative months and quarters.
But I would venture to say that every good executive in our member base, which we track for these monthly results, is intent on being above average. When the averages are negative to flat, the achievement of average just isn’t good enough — It will not help rebuild and effectively grow a brand.
At Black Box Intelligence and People Report we are focused on top quartile performance as a way to judge opportunities and best practices. So rather than dwell on the obvious, let’s explore some of the uplifting information we can share.
The top quartile of our reporters in same-store sales average a 5.4-percent increase, year-to-date, over the results of the bottom quartile. Traffic results are approximately the same for most months this year.
The spread from best to worst companies is even more dramatic.
The top quartile is made up of brands from casual dining, family dining, upscale casual and fast casual, and while Black Box Intelligence doesn’t currently receive or track weekly data from quick service, that segment looks the same from what I see in public reports. I believe this shoots holes in the theory that one segment is blessed and another is cursed.
- The best region for the quarter and the trailing twelve months is Texas with a sales increase of 1.4 percent and 2.6 percent, respectively.
- When it comes to this month’s Consumer Edge “Willingness to Spend Index,” there is some optimism driven by a lower concern for gas prices. But the question remains: Are consumers going to spend their money on dining out, on our industry? I want to note that retail sales came in at a positive 3.6 percent for May.
I’m very much in the camp of seeking the truth about the best performer as a way to understand the most relevant question that can be asked of any business. Is it the industry, economy or my business that is making me perform best, worst or at that not-quite-good-enough average? If I understand this question I can address the gaps in my business, from the most important all the way to the less important, but interesting.
We have to deal with a slower economy and a mature industry, but as the top quartile of our Black Box Intelligence and People Report brands suggest, success is more about the execution of different winning strategies than luck or a rising tide.
“The Restaurant Industry Snapshot” is a compilation of real sales and traffic results from 117 DMAs from 73 distinct restaurant brands and approximately 12,000 restaurants that are clients of Black Box Intelligence. Currently, data is comprised of casual dining (44%), upscale/fine-dining (32%) and fast-casual/family-dining (24%). Black Box Intelligence is a sister company to People Report, which tracks 1 million restaurant employees on workforce analytics. The Restaurant Industry Snapshot also includes the “Restaurant Industry Willingness to Spend Index” from Consumer Edge Research, which is a monthly household survey of more than 2,500 consumers. Consumer Edge Research is a marketing partner with Black Box Intelligence and People Report.
Wallace B. Doolin
Doolin is chairman of Thomas Doolin and Associates LLC, the holding company of People Report, the leader in human capital business intelligence for the restaurant industry and Black Box Intelligence. He is the founder of Black Box Intelligence, a state of the art business intelligence product for the restaurant industry. Additionally, Doolin serves as executive chairman of ESP Systems LLC, a hospitality and healthcare technology company. Other current responsibilities include public company board of director service for Caribou Coffee and Famous Dave’s. Previously, Doolin served as CEO of Carlson Restaurants Worldwide and TGI Friday’s.
Editor’s note: This new and exclusive series to Nation’s Restaurant News provides C-level insights into the sales and traffic data from clients subscribing to Black Box Intelligence, a financial performance benchmarking company. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Nation’s Restaurant News.