October brings restaurants some sales relief

Restaurants eked out a 0.9% gain in same-store sales for October despite another slip in traffic, giving the industry its first gain in comps since May 2016, according to a just-released snapshot of the industry’s performance from researcher TDn2K.

The data suggests restaurants found some traction after a particularly tough third quarter, when historically severe hurricanes disrupted two of the industry’s three largest markets, Texas and Florida. TDn2K noted that even the 1.5% decrease in transactions last month was the slightest decline since February 2016 and a significant upswing from the 3.6% drop for the first nine months of 2017.

Customers spent 2.5% more per transaction in October than they did a year earlier, continuing a growth in check averages, the data shows.

Florida restaurants bounced back dramatically after Hurricane Irma struck in September, TDn2K noted. Sales there jumped 11.3% from the depressed levels of the prior month, the firm said.

“Another encouraging sign was that the October sales improvement was evident at the brand level and not only in the aggregate numbers,” said Victor Fernandez, executive director of insights and knowledge for TDn2K. “Over half of the brands tracked by Black Box Intelligence (the company’s sales-monitoring operation) had positive sales for the month. For comparison, fewer than a third of the brands were up in September.”

TDn2K tracks 155 restaurant brands, representing some 30,000 units, in generating its monthly Restaurant Industry Snapshot.

Financial results revealed in recent weeks by publicly owned restaurant companies underscored how difficult the third quarter proved for many chains. Chili’s, for instance, suffered an 8.7% drop in traffic at company-operated units. Taco Cabana and Pollo Tropical posted declines in transactions of 14.3% and 13.1%, respectively.

TDn2K noted that October was a particularly strong month, relative to the rest of the year, for table service restaurants—casual dining, family dining and fine dining.

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