Report: Restaurant sales and traffic drop in March

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Continued concern over high gas prices contributed to a disappointing March for restaurants as both same-store sales and guest traffic were negative, according to the most recent Restaurant Industry Snapshot from Black Box Intelligence.

The monthly report is garnered from the tracking of 73 distinct restaurant brands and more than 12,000 units that are clients of Black Box Intelligence, a financial and market data sister company to People Report, the Dallas-based workforce data, analytics and consulting firm. The Restaurant Industry Snapshot also includes the Restaurant Industry Willingness to Spend Index from Consumer Edge Research, which is a monthly household survey of over 2,500 consumers.

The report found that industry same-store sales fell 0.2 percent in March and guest traffic was down 3.4 percent for the month. The report also found that sales for both food and alcohol were down. Where favorable weather had a positive effect on sales in February, it didn’t help in March, said Wallace Doolin, chairman and founder of Black Box Intelligence.

“The results for March were disappointing following six straight months of positive comparable sales growth,” Doolin said. “While February comps were driven in many regions by a favorable weather rollover, it appears the reverse effect impacted the Northeast and Midwest during record-breaking warm weather in March.”

Doolin noted that New England was the region that struggled most, declining 3.4 percent and 5.7 percent in sales and traffic, respectively.

The Restaurant Industry Willingness to Spend Index also posted its second month of decline, which Doolin said is indicative of consumers concerns. “The consumer remains concerned about the effect high gas prices have on restaurant spending,” he explained.

Hear more from Doolin on the March results

Contact Charlie Duerr at charles.duerr@penton.com.