What is in this article?:
- Thanksgiving sales indicate strong holiday season for restaurants
- Online ordering on the rise
Boston Market, Cracker Barrel, Mimi's Café and others anticipate a strong December following Thanksgiving
With December approaching, some restaurant chains see the healthy flow of shopping and restaurant traffic during the Thanksgiving weekend as a positive indicator for the holiday season ahead.
Last weekend began with strong Thanksgiving Day sales among those promoting holiday feasts for dine-in or take-out, operators said this week.
“Strong results for Thanksgiving usually provide an indication of a better-than-average December,” said George Michel, chief executive of Boston Market.
The Golden, Colo.-based chain said weekly sales per restaurant for Nov. 19-23 rose 13 percent this year over last. The chain saw a 27-percent increase in catering, and a more than 10 percent increase in sales of heat-and-serve “chilled banquet” meals.
The various trackers of Black Friday shopping behavior this week had differing results for the holiday weekend, but all reported an increase in activity this year, indicating that consumers are feeling more confident about spending this season.
The National Retail Federation estimated that a record 247 million people visited stores or retail websites over the holiday weekend, an increase of 9 percent over last year’s 226 million. This year those shoppers spent an estimated $59.1 billion, or an average of $423 per person, compared with $398 last year.
Retail research firm ShopperTrak estimated that retail foot traffic rose 8.2 percent this Thanksgiving weekend over last with more than 594 million store visits. ShopperTrak estimated sales rose 2.7 percent to $22 billion over the four days.
And First Data, which tracks credit and debit card sales, said the average spend per shopping trip on Thanksgiving and Black Friday specifically increased 1.9 percent this year over last.
The holiday weekend results were followed this week by news that consumer confidence in November reached its highest level in nearly five years — despite warnings of the “fiscal cliff,” tax increases that could go into effect next year.
Though the retail data did not offer specific insight into restaurant spending, several chains — especially those with specific holiday promotions or those located near shopping centers — indicated that they also fared well last weekend.
For example, Lebanon, Tenn.-based Cracker Barrel, in its earnings report Thursday, said Thanksgiving Day was the strongest single sales day in the chain’s history.
Mimi’s Café, owned by Columbus, Ohio-based Bob Evans Farms Inc., said it recorded double-digit sales increases on Thanksgiving Day this year, which the chain attributed to both dine-in and take-out sales, including two new to-go packages: a Brunch Feast To-Go with six muffins, six quiches and seasonal fruit for $39.99; as well as Holiday Sides To-Go package options that added incremental sales to the primary Holiday Feast To-Go.
Karen Eadon, Mimi’s vice president of marketing, said, “We expect it to be even stronger in December because more people will be aware that we have these new offerings.”
Eadon also noted an interesting new twist to Thanksgiving sales this year: One anonymous donor bought 100 Holiday Feasts To-Go at $89.99 each for families in need.