While sales among casual dining chains remained soft during June, the longer term outlook for their fast-casual counterparts remains bright. 

Malcolm Knapp reported that same-store sales declined by 2 percent in June for the 56 casual restaurant chains that provide the basis for his Knapp-Track report. Same-store guest counts declined 3.1 percent while check averages increased 1.1 percent. In June of 2012 same store sales rose 0.8 percent. The results for June 2013 run counter to those for March, April and May which were "modestly positive." The report noted that same-store sales declined in all five weeks in June.

Knapp reiterated his theory that nervous consumers are carefully allocating their resources and are spending in some segments – such as automobiles – and restaurants are suffering as a result. Knapp did not offer a projection for the last half of the year and remains very cautious due to tougher comp sale comparisons in July and August as well as the recent increase in gas prices. He did note, though, that "all store sales" (i.e., sales that include more recently opened locations) are up 2 percent through May of this year with guest counts up 0.7 percent.

The information above is courtesy of Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Economic News This Week:

  • Initial jobless claims for the week ending July 13 totaled 334,000, a steep decline of 24,000 that represents the lowest number of first-time claims since May. The more reliable 4-week claim average fell 5,250 for a total of 346,000. These numbers are seasonally adjusted by the U.S. Department of Labor and some experts warn that July claims are tricky to measure because of seasonal layoffs such as factory shut downs for retooling, etc.
  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Price Index showed an increase of 0.5 percent in June, driven in large part by a 6.3 percent jump in gasoline prices. Food prices were up 0.2 percent for the month. In the past 12 months the Index is up 1.8 percent while the so called "core index", which excludes both food and energy, is up 1.4 percent. The Bureau also calculates that "real" wages have risen just 0.4 percent in the past year.
  • Industrial production rose 0.3 percent in June and was up 0.6 percent for the second quarter. Capacity utilization inched up 0.1 percent to 77.8 percent in June.
  • Both the N.Y. Federal Reserve's Manufacturing Survey and the Philadelphia Fed's Business Outlook Survey showed big increases in July. The N.Y. Fed's index went from 7.84 in June to 9.46. In May the index was minus 1.43. New orders, shipments and employment were all up for the month. The Philadelphia survey jumped from 12.5 in June to 19.8 this month, the highest the level the survey has reached since March 2011.
  • Reports on the housing market were fairly positive this week with the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Builder Sentiment Index jumping to 57 in July from 51 the previous month. Any reading of more than 50 indicates a positive market sentiment. The Index has not been this high since January 2006. Housing starts and building permits tumbled in June with starts falling 9.9 percent to an annualized 836,000 while permits issued fell 7.5 percent to an annualize rate of 911,000. However, the statistics are misleading because of a 26 percent decline in multifamily housing starts and a 21 percent drop in multifamily building permits. Single family home starts were down just 0.8 percent while building permits for single family homes rose 0.6 percent.
  • Leading economic indicators were flat in June with building permits, new orders and stock prices declining but being offset by gains in consumer expectations, initial unemployment claims, and other financial indicators. The Conference Board stated that the LEI's six-month growth rate remains positive.
  • The Gallup Organization reported its U.S. Economic Confidence Index last week retreated to minus 12, which is the lowest reading the index has hit since April. However, Gallup points out the confidence index represents a "meaningful improvement over 2011 and most of 2012."
  • Gallup's U.S. Satisfaction Index found 28 percent of Americans were satisfied with the way things are going in the country. This is better than the averages for 2010, 2011 and 2012. In July this year 68 percent of the respondents to the study said they were dissatisfied.

Foodservice News This Week:

  • Consumer prices for food away from home increased 0.2 percent in June over May and rose 2.2 percent over June of last year. For this year to date, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says food away from home prices are up 2.3 percent.
  • Raymond James Financial recently revised its evaluation of the stocks of Chuy's, Cracker Barrel, Panera Bread Co., and Ruth's Hospitality to underperform. Evidently the stock pickers at the company are not enamored of the industry in general.
  • Sales tax rates on restaurant meals in Greece may be headed lower. The restaurant patrons in the financially troubled nation now pay 23 percent tax but it appears that the rate may be reduced to 13 percent. Supporters of the change argue that increased consumer sales will result, producing more taxes, not less.
  • Fast-casual restaurants show no signs of slowing down their growth rate according to a recent report from Technomic. The report indicates that fast-casual compound annual sales growth of 10 percent from 2012 thru 2017 will exceed the growth of both full-service and fast service restaurants.
  • Sysco's Northern California operation is under investigation for storing food in more than a dozen outdoor storage sheds to hold a variety of perishable products. The alleged violations are being investigated by California state inspectors after being notified by NBC.
  • Aramark plans to open a new business services center in Davidson County, Tenn., that will cost $20 million and employee more than 1,000 people.
  • McDonald's disappointed Wall Street by reporting second quarter global comparable store sales increased 1 percent. While total sales rose 2.4 percent and net income grew 3.7 percent, U.S. comparable store sales were up 0.2 percent in June and 1.0 percent for the quarter. Some observers feel that McD's U.S. competitors may be cutting into the burger giant's sales. The company also reported that the remainder of the year will be challenging.
  • The Valentino's Pizza chain hopes to expand into gas stations, c-stores and other "non-traditional" locations with a new small format called the "Valentino's Pizza Express."
  • Old Country Buffet, having redesigned and introduced a new menu in their restaurants in Denver, now plans on doing the same in their Twin Cities restaurants.
  • Add Sonny's Real Pit Bar-B-Q to the list of restaurant chains re-imaging their operations. The company's recently opened prototype is renamed Sonny's BBQ and offers a new logo and décor.
  • Growth Chains: Luke McKee, who has been opening bars and restaurants for the past 20 years in various cities, according to the Nashville Business Journal, will open 5 unique bars and restaurants, each with a different concept in the Nashville area this fall. McDonald's has signed a developmental license for Vietnam. Burger King has signed an area development agreement for Pakistan. Smoky Bones will open at least 11 new restaurants in the next 2 years. Two Pie Five franchisees will be opening 7 restaurants in Kansas and Oklahoma and 6 in Nebraska. Burger King is negotiating awarding a franchise in Israel with the goal of opening 12 units in 2014.
  • Comparable Store Sales Reports: Chipotle Mexican Grill (up 5.3 percent), Del Frisco (system up 2.5 percent, Del Frisco up 5.9 percent, and Sullivan's down 2.7 percent), Good Times Burgers (up 17.8 percent), and McDonald's (up 0.2 percent.)

For details and same store sales report on other chains, lease click here for the Green Sheet.