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…But bad weather didn’t freeze the industry’s Feb. sales

Snowstorms and frigid temperatures in many areas of the country didn’t prevent the nation’s restaurants from enjoying an uptick in business during February, according to economic indicators released separately last week.

Increased business prompted restaurants to hire significantly more staff during the month, expanding the industry’s total payroll by a net gain of 58,700 jobs, according to figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Bruce Grindy, chief economist for the National Restaurant Association, characterized the hiring as “robust” and noted that it came “despite the challenging weather conditions in parts of the country.”

He added, “The extreme weather didn’t appear to dampen the overall labor market’s momentum either, as the economy exceeded expectations by adding a net 295,000 jobs in February.”

Same-store sales for the month increased by 2.1 percent year-over-year, according to Black Box Intelligence, a restaurant research firm.

The gain was attributable in part to the noticeably weak sales of February 2014, making comparisons favorable. But “we believe the underlying strength in the economic conditions and positive momentum of consumer optimism is still there, proven by the strong sales growth posted by the western and southern regions of the country during the month,” noted Victor Fernandez, executive director of insights and knowledge for Black Box’s parent company, TDn2K.

He noted that restaurant traffic ebbed by a percentage point in February, the first decline clocked by Black Box since November. Fernandez called it “evidence that the weather did have a negative impact.”

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