Black Box Intelligence and People Report released The Restaurant Industry Snapshot for August this week, which showed negative sales for the month — the third consecutive month of flat-to-negative sales growth in comparable stores.


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Restaurant same-store sales fell 0.2 percent in August, compared with a 0.9-percent decline in July and flat sales in June. During the last three months combined the industry experienced a 0.3-percent drop in same-store store sales when compared with the same period in 2012.

Same-store traffic fell 1.9 percent during the month, slightly better than the 2.2-percent decline in July and the 2.5-percent drop reported for June.

Consumer Edge Research, a partner company to People Report and Black Box Intelligence, released the Restaurant Willingness to Spend Index last week with a value of 92.5for August. While it reflects a small downtick when compared with the July value of 93, it’s still a multi-year high reflecting the relative optimism of consumers during the last four months.

Based on historical data gathered through the partnership, a decrease in the index score would typically suggest a slightly lower Black Box Intelligence same-stores sales rate in the month of September as compared to August. “However, given the strengthening of this index as well as the growing consumer confidence in the overall economy, we believe September might result in slightly improved results for restaurants,” said Victor Fernandez, executive director of insights and knowledge for Black Box Intelligence and People Report.

“Even with this new consumer optimism, the fact remains that the growth rate for real disposable personal income has slowed during 2013 compared with previous years and is acting as a counterbalance holding back this renewed willingness to spend,” he noted. “The net result is keeping restaurant sales growth flat to slightly negative during the summer.”

The best sales performance in August was reported in the Western region with same-store sales rising 1.3 percent and same-store traffic falling -0.4 percent. Same as reported last month, the Mid Atlantic region was the lowest performing area during August, with same-store sales falling 2.2 percent and same-store traffic dropping 2.9 percent.

August did see an improvement at the market level, with 83 of the 182 DMAs covered by Black Box Intelligence posting positive same-store sales in August, rising from just 50 in July.

People Report also presents turnover results by position by segment to member companies each month, with the most recent results showing management and hourly turnover slightly increasing. The job growth rate for the chain restaurant industry was estimated at 1.4-percent for July year-over-year, based on People Report’s latest published metrics. This is the same job growth rate calculated for the industry during June and a slight slowdown from the 1.9-percent growth estimated for May.

The Restaurant Industry Snapshot is a compilation of real sales and traffic results from 180+ DMAs from 100+ restaurant brands and approximately 15,000+ restaurants that are clients of Black Box Intelligence. Currently, data is reported in four distinct segments: casual dining, upscale/fine-dining, fast casual, and family dining. Black Box Intelligence is a sister company to People Report, which tracks the workforce analytics of one million restaurant employees. The Restaurant Industry Snapshot also includes the Restaurant Industry Willingness to Spend Index from Consumer Edge Research, which is a monthly household survey of more than 2,500 consumers. Consumer Edge Insights is a marketing partner with Black Box Intelligence and People Report.