The year ended on a negative note for the restaurant industry as December was plagued by severe winter storms and a shortened shopping season due to a late Thanksgiving.

The December results for the Restaurant Industry Snapshot published by Black Box Intelligence and People Report, released this week, show December pushed fourth-quarter same-store sales performance into negative territory.

“On an aggregate level, 2013 was not a good year for the industry, which posted slightly negative same-store sales, but more importantly suffered through its third consecutive year of deteriorating same-store traffic growth,” said Victor Fernandez, executive director of insights and knowledge for TDn2K, parent company of Black Box Intelligence and People Report.

Same-store sales fell 2.0 percent in December, a significant 2.8-percent drop from the growth rate reported for November.

“There are several effects that combined to push down same-store sales during December,” continued Fernandez. “First, there is the effect from Thanksgiving being tallied in December sales for 2013, which hurt same-store sales for those segments that typically have lower weekly sales due to that holiday, such as Casual Dining and Upscale/Fine Dining. Furthermore, the late Thanksgiving meant that the holiday shopping season got compressed, and thus we had one week less of people eating out while shopping. The final blow for the industry came from the winter storms that hit vast regions of the country, starting with the week after Thanksgiving. This resulted in sales during those prime weeks of activity being severely hurt.”



Fourth-quarter same-store sales fell 0.2 percent as a result of the December downturn, which reversed the positive same-store sales trend experienced by the industry since September.

With these fourth-quarter results, the industry has now posted two consecutive quarters of negative same-store sales. With the exception of the second quarter, which saw modest growth of 0.7 percent, all other quarters of 2013 showed a decline in same-store sales.

Annual same-store sales for 2013 fell 0.1 percent, a 1.0-percent drop from 2012, and the first time since 2010 that Black Box Intelligence’s index has resulted in negative same-store sales for the year.

“This is obviously discouraging news for the industry after two consecutive years of same-store sales around 1.0 percent,” said Fernandez. “This speaks to the fragile state of consumer confidence and continues to highlight the problem the chain restaurant industry has when it comes to driving traffic.”