What is in this article?:
- What to forecast for restaurant performance in 2013
- What to forecast?
The restaurant industry posted positive same-store sales and negative in traffic in 2012 — and 2013 results could be similar.
Editor's note: This exclusive series to Nation’s Restaurant News provides C-level insights into the sales and traffic data from clients subscribing to Black Box Intelligence, a financial performance benchmarking company. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Nation’s Restaurant News.
Last year ended with a difficult quarter and month, as indicated by Black Box Intelligence's most recent Restaurant Industry Snapshot.
Overall, for the second straight year the restaurant industry posted positive same-store sales in 2012 at an increase of 0.5 percent, but negative traffic at a decrease of 1.7 percent. In comparison we saw a same-store sales rise by 0.7 percent and a 1.7-percent drop in traffic in 2011.
In addition, our data shows a startling fact: On average, brands are still below their 2008 average unit volumes. Data aggregated over four years shows a 5.2-percent decline in same-store sales and an 8.7-percent decline in traffic. We did note some differences in regions, though, with California rebounding toward the end of last year.
Looking ahead to 2013, the statement that comes to mind is WTF — which means, of course, "What to forecast?" I'm not in the business of forecasting, but I read what most of what the experts predict. The truth, it seems, is that nobody knows.
This may sound like more of the same from last year but with different issues. We know that health care reform is happening, who has been elected the president of the U.S., and that we missed the fiscal cliff. Now, however, we face more uncertainty about the debt ceiling and how to prepare for health care reform, which leaves restaurant customers uncertain and reactionary to the latest news.
I'm an observer, not a forecaster. That leads me to say that, unfortunately, our 2013 index will probably be another "1-percent world" in same-store sales and negative again in traffic. Tell me it isn't so!
What about individual companies? What about segments? We never comment on individual company performance, but it is interesting to observe the differences in the top quartile performance compared to the bottom quartile. In 2012, that difference was a whopping 4.6 percent in same-store sales and 4.8 percent in traffic.
The industry is engaged in a market-share battle that is won with a marketer’s mentality. The best brands are focused on micro-targeting their consumers with relevant products and services that will positively impact traffic and sales. Just cutting costs, raising prices or out-operating the competition will no longer differentiate a brand. Taking those tacks, a company that doesn't adopt technology and business intelligence that provides insight into the consumer is likely to fail.