March restaurant sales increase despite rising gas prices

Latest update suggests two-month positive trend developing based on continued pent-up demand

Restaurant industry sales continue to be on an upswing, with sales reaching $75.4B in March, according to an update released from the National Restaurant Association. Citing US Census Bureau data, this total for eating and drinking places in March 2022 was up 1% from February’s revised volume total of $74.6B.

The two-month positive trend is a welcome departure from the previous six months, July 2021 to January 2022, in which restaurant industry sales were basically flat.

The analysis of the most recent trends suggests that sales continue to be elevated due to ongoing pent-up demand. The demand continued despite rising gas prices, which some restaurateurs have started attributing to a slight slowdown.

In a mid-March survey, 48% of adults said to the Association that they are not going out to restaurants as often as they would like. The good news is that the percentage is down from the 83% of adults who said the same in April 2020. The bad news is that the number is slightly higher than pre-pandemic levels.

The same survey indicated that 38% of adults said they are not ordering takeout or delivery from restaurants as often as they would like. Fortunately, this figure is down 6 percentage-points from the pre-pandemic figure, according to the Association’s analysis. The drop suggests how much off-premises dining options have become ingrained in consumers’ daily lives in the past two years.

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