August restaurant sales show improving trend, full-service segment taking greater share of spend

Monthly comparable sales nearly within 10 points of last year

Sales in the restaurant industry continued an upward trend in August according to data-analytics firm Black Box. The company reported comparable sales were down just 12.3 percent from last year, and that comparable transactions declined 17.7 percent. The sales from the 50,000 restaurant locations that Black Box tracks represent a heavier weighting on chains. The momentum reflected in these numbers can exclude the trends of independently-owned restaurants and other foodservice players, including contract food.

August 23 Black Box sales data

While restaurant sales continue to improve, and August is the best performance since February, it’s not the full story. Based on Black Box data from the third week of August, 10 percent of restaurants remain closed. Those closures could well become permanent. And a total of 20 percent of limited-service restaurants (LSRs) are operating in off-premises mode only

LSRs have increased average check growth from the previous week and have an accelerated pace of improvement in this area. While LSRs have had a relatively more persistent and predictable comeback, casual- and fine-dining restaurants are gaining ground. In the last four weeks up until August 23, 60 percent of all sales came in the form of dining room business at full-service restaurants, reports Black Box.


And while 75 percent of restaurant spending occurred at LSRs, it’s down from its height of 82 percent in April as FSRs take back share of dining dollars. FSRs increase of share has been on an upward trend since that moment. However, LSRs continue to have a higher share of spend than before the pandemic, when their share was only 68 percent. Black Box also noted that the Southeast, Mountain Plains and the Southwest regions posted the best comparable sales growth in the country.

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