November was “the worst month” for restaurant industry sales since August

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Restaurant sales struggled in November, according to Black Box Intelligence, which shared information in an article on Nation’s Restaurant News this week. The stumbling coincides with both the increase in COVID-19 cases and colder weather that has made alfresco dining unrealistic.

From Black Box Intelligence:

Comparable store sales growth was -10.3%, down 3.8 percentage points from the year-over-year sales growth rate in October. Same-store traffic of -16.3% in November was down 3.3 percentage points from the performance of the previous month. It was the worst month for the industry since August based on lost year-over-year sales and traffic.

Sales deteriorated throughout November, with comparable store sales in the last week of November being the worst the restaurant industry has seen in nearly four months. Black Box Intelligence suggests this could mean we are “in the midst of yet another restaurant downturn”.

Those numbers came the same week that the National Restaurant Association shared new findings about the restaurant industry via a letter sent to congressional leaders. In the letter, the Association noted that restaurants of all types are in “economic downturn”, with declining sales and more layoffs and holidays expected in the coming months.

Without large-scale measures, like a Congressional back-up plan, the situation for the restaurant industry will only get worse, especially since it is only the onset of winter. Outdoor dining options will not be possible for at least a few months in many locations. Off-premises channels, like delivery and take-out, are important, but as we’ve discussed at length this week, running a restaurant entirely through these channels is an economic and operational challenge for most businesses.

Black Box Intelligence noted that despite poor sales in November, customer satisfaction was higher. Positive online restaurant reviews increased 7.0 percentage points from the same month in 2019. Return intent scores are almost back to pre-pandemic levels.


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