DEFINITE UPTICK IN FULL SERVICE RESTAURANT SALES – MORE SEATS, EVEN MORE SALES!
We continue to monitor closely the change in dining customer behavior. The OpenTable numbers published daily give us a pretty good idea relative to full service casual dining trends. We are going to survey the reported results of the publicly held chains and the indications they have given us week to week, and we will publish those numbers in the next few days. In the meantime, the OpenTable numbers shown below (which we have lined up day to day), after stagnation from late June to mid July, provide a clear indication of improvement in the last three weeks. The trend is especially evident on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings (a substantial 9-10 points of improvement), which are the normal more active days of the week.
Furthermore, the chart below shows that more restaurants are taking reservations, but the increase in this statistic is perhaps 5-6 points of improvement.
Our interpretation, since the improvement in sales seems noticeably larger, 9-10 points, vs. perhaps 5-6% more seats available, is that customers are increasingly willing to dine out. We can all speculate on the reasons why: perhaps (1) getting bored with takeout and delivery alternatives (2) a generally more optimist attitude about the economy reopening, more stimulus checks to come? (3) acceptance of the fact that masks could be a way of life for a while to come so we might as well get on with our lives.
This is not say that full service dining operators are minting money, or that there will not be a great number of restaurants to close. It will be many months before operating cash flow and profits approach the levels of just six months ago. The industry is, however, currently moving in the right direction.