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Restaurant industry sales fall 10.3 percent during month of November: Black Box

Renewed restrictions, restaurant avoidance, coronavirus surge converge

November restaurant industry comp(arable) sales decreased 10.3 percent from last year. Comp traffic also dropped 16.3 percent, according to new data released by data-analytics firm Black Box Intelligence. Comp sales results are down nearly 3 percentage-points from October, when the industry posted a 7.5 percent decrease from last year. Starting with May’s sales results, each month had been sequentially better as 2020 progressed.

November also marks the worst decline since the month of August, noted Black Box, when comp sales dropped 12.3 percent from last year. Ongoing pressure on the recovery has come in the form of the worst weeks of the pandemic and renewed restrictions and shutdowns by states.

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There are also signs that consumers are hunkering down for the winter, reluctant to expose themselves to populations in which the virus, as a percentage, has grown exponentially.

Maryland has restricted indoor dining to 50-percent capacity. Virginia’s governor, Ralph Northam, ordered restaurants, food courts, breweries and the like to stop serving on-premises alcohol by 10 p.m and to close by 12 a.m. Furthermore, Massachusetts, New York and Ohio have ordered bars and restaurants to stop serving early, according to Cable News Network. Massachusetts establishments will stop serving at 9:30 p.m., while New York and Ohio must close at 10 p.m., it reported.

Survey data from Datassential suggests consumers will be less likely to dine out in the coming months. As a sign that consumers are hunkering down for the winter, 64 percent of consumers agree that they’ll stay home to minimize the risk of getting sick as they enter flu season, while 17 percent disagree. Moreover, 61 percent of respondents agree that COVID-19 will get worse in the winter months, while only 15 percent disagree.

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And 62 percent of consumers agree that winter will make it harder for their local restaurants to stay open as they have thus far; 15 percent disagree.

As on-premise business curtails or totally collapses in some markets, restaurant operators are wise to have a dual business strategy that encompasses off-premise and indoor dining. Seventy-three percent of restaurant operators offer carryout, 44 percent offer curbside pickup and 34 percent offer delivery. Operators can work toward increasing these numbers.

Prior to new restrictions taking place, 60 percent of operators were offering indoor dining and 42 percent outdoor seating.

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Photo credit: Robert Dyer (featured preview image)

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