QSR continues to lead the pack as restaurant comps rise in May

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Restaurant industry same-store sales were up in May, with quick-service chains continuing to outperform the full-service segment, according to the latest NRN-MillerPulse survey.

MillerPulse, an operator survey exclusive to Nation’s Restaurant News, included respondents from 53 restaurant operators in June regarding May sales, profit trends, performance and outlooks. Respondents included operators from all regions of the country that represent the quick-service, casual-dining, fine-dining and fast-casual segments. Those surveyed in June represented restaurants that booked about 14 percent of industry sales.

Industry same-store sales rose 3.1 percent in May compared with a 2.3-percent increase in April, the survey found. Quick-service restaurants, which include both fast-food and fast-casual brands, had another strong month, with a sales increase of 4.5 percent in May, compared with a 3.7-percent increase the month prior. Full-service restaurants, which include both casual-dining and fine-dining brands, saw a modest increase of 1.7 percent in May compared with a 1.3-percent gain in April. Casual-dining brands continued to struggle, with same-store sales rising 1 percent and guest traffic falling 0.9 percent, the survey found.

However, full-service restaurants’ unremarkable month is not necessarily indicative of the health of the industry as a whole.

“There's a misconception that the industry is slowing. It's not. Only parts of it are — casual dining,” said Larry Miller, restaurant securities analyst at RBC Capital Markets and creator of the monthly MillerPulse surveys. “Sales trends for fast-food and fast-casual companies are holding up very well. So it's not surprising to me that the sales outlook for QSR companies is much better than casual dining.”

Miller referred to the net 27 percent of quick-service operators who say sales will improve in June, as opposed to only a net 22 percent of full-service operators that feel the same way. Those figures were calculated by subtracting the percentage of operators who felt sales would get worse in June from the percentage that felt they would get better.

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