Restaurant sales show little sign of slowing

Same-store sales have risen for the past 11 weeks, according to Black Box, and check sizes continue to accelerate.
Restaurant sales
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Restaurant sales have been increasing for nearly three months and show no sign of stopping, at least according to the most recent update from Black Box Intelligence.

The restaurant information firm said that same-store sales accelerated last week and have increased for 11 straight weeks. Sales from the week ended May 30 were the best results for the index in six weeks, suggesting that the industry’s post-pandemic sales boom is not yet subsiding.

Other indications from Black Box suggest a return to normal in some areas while other areas continue some of their pandemic trends.

For one thing, consumers continue to come in less often and make larger orders when they do, suggesting that people continue to buy takeout for families and groups and dine alone less. Average check is growing at an accelerated pace when compared with each of the past two years.

Guest count, on the other hand, remains in decline.

But check growth was lower at fast-food and fast-casual concepts, according to Black Box, perhaps suggesting that consumers are returning to a more normal state with such chains. In pre-pandemic days limited-service concepts relied more on solo diners grabbing food on the way to and from work or during lunch.

More Americans are indeed returning to the office—fewer than 17% of Americans are currently working from home, about half as much as did a year ago.

“Average check is up by a pretty substantial level,” McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski told investors last week, according too a transcript on the financial services site Sentieo. “We don’t expect that’s going to continue at the same levels. I think over time you will see the average check diminish. That will have the other side benefit as you start to see traffic start to pick up in the drive-thru.”

Takeout and delivery sales growth remains “historically high” for limited-service brands. And they remain “extremely high” for full-service concepts, according to Black Box, but that rate of growth has been in a steady decline since mid-March. That suggests that consumers are cutting back on spending to get their casual dining meal to-go as they start eating in more often.

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