In this week's blog, Jerry Steigler takes a look at the most restaurant-dense markets in the U.S. and sifts through the sands of economic data in search of some implications for the foodservice industry.

Forbes reported on the U.S. cities and counties with the highest number of restaurants per capita. On a municipal level, San Francisco is the most restaurant-dense city, followed by New York City; Seattle; San Jose, Calif.; Providence, R.I.; Boston; and Portland, Ore. In terms of counties, Fairfield County, Conn., was tops, followed by Orange County, Calif. As for the concentration of bars, New Orleans is number one, followed by Milwaukee, Omaha, Pittsburgh, Toledo, Syracuse, Buffalo, San Francisco, Las Vegas and Honolulu.

Note that only San Francisco made both lists.

Economic News This Week

  • Employment Data topped the macroeconomic news in the past week. First time claims for unemployment for the week ending July 27 increased by 8,000 to 365,000. Payroll processing company ADP said jobs in the private sector grew by 163,000 in July while the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics came up with a similar result. The BLS said private sector jobs grew by 172,000 while government jobs declined by 9,000 for a net increase of 163,000. The Bureau also reports that unemployment "showed little movement" increasing to 8.3 percent in July, up 0.1 percent from June. Counting the underemployed, meaning those working part time who want full time employment, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said unemployment is 15 percent. As this year's election turns into a spinning contest that manipulates the data to make political points, some economists believe the country needs to generate about 150,000 new jobs a month just to keep up with population growth. Therefore, the stats seem to indicate that unemployment will not recede very much or very soon.
  • The Institute for Supply Management's Manufacturing Index posted a score of 49.8 for July, remaining in negative territory for the second consecutive month. While these scores indicate that manufacturing activity is shrinking, ISM says the Index must decline to 43 to indicate a recession.
  • The July Chicago Production Manufacturing Index declined slightly to 53.7.
  • Factory orders fell 0.5 percent in July according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Durable goods orders rose 1.3 percent but orders for non-durable goods declined 2 percent.
  • Construction spending increased 0.4 percent in June, marking the third consecutive monthly increase. Fueling the growth was a 1.3 percent increase in home building, which supports the feeling that the housing market is recovering.
  • The Non-Manufacturing Index from the Institute for Supply Management did stay in expansion mode and even rose a little to 52.6 last month from 52.1 in June but the employment component of the services index fell below 50 to 49.3 from 53.3 in June, raising fears of continued weakness in hiring.
  • Auto sales were decent in July with most manufacturers reporting increases. But, GM and Ford sales were down from June with both companies citing weak fleet sales as one of the reasons. Generally, fleet auto sales are at lower margins than those of retail sales.
  • July sales of a lot of major retailers were unexpectedly strong. Chains including Macy's, Target, Costco and the Gap all exceeded comparable store sales forecasts.

Foodservice News This Week

  • Foodservice employment was a bright spot in July with the Bureau of Labor Statistics seasonally adjusted figures showing that restaurants and bars added 29,400 new employees last month. In the past 12 months the industry has added 291,000 jobs. The economist at the NRA calculates that of the 47 states where the data is available, restaurant hiring outperformed total job growth in 35 of them.
  • Restaurant franchisees fear the new federal healthcare law, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal. The CFO of McDonald's told stock market analysts that the law will add $10,000 to $30,000 in annual costs to each of McD's 14,000 U.S. units. The article quoted the owner of two Quizno's restaurants to the effect that while he once wanted six units he has shelved his plans to keep from breaking the 50 employee threshold at which point he would have to provide health insurance.
  • Sales of the combo meal appear to be declining, according to the NPD Group. In the last five years the number of combo meals sold has declined by 12 percent because of both price and content concerns.
  • The Forbes Customer Loyalty Index Innovators study has Dunkin' Donuts number one with a 91 percent score followed by Starbucks (89 percent), McDonald's (85 percent) and Tim Horton's (79 percent).
  • McDonald's has announced a "Breakfast After Midnight" program that offers a limited number of the most popular items from the chains' breakfast menu. Applebee's, to capitalize on the nocturnivore trend, offers special menu items and deals for late-night customers.
  • Olympic Gold Medalist gymnast Kohei "Superman" Uchimura told interviews that he prefers McDonald's food over vegetables.
  • Comparable store sales this week are for Applebee's (up 0.7 percent), Baskin Robbins (up 4.6 percent), BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse (up 4.4 percent), Bravo Brio Restaurant Group (Bravo up 0.6 percent, Brio down 0.3 percent), Burger King (up 4.6 percent), Caribou Coffee (up 2.8 percent), Chuck E Cheese (down 3.4 percent), Denny's (system up 0.8 percent, company-owned flat and franchised up 0.9 percent, Einstein Noah Restaurant Group (up 1.3 percent), Fazoli's (up 4.2 percent), Granite City (up 1.5 percent), IHOP (down 1.4 percent), J. Alexander's (up 4.2 percent), Jamba, Inc. (system up 5.7 percent, company-owned up 5.6 percent, franchised up 6.4 percent), Kona Grill (up 2.3 percent), Papa John's (North American locations up 5.7 percent, company-owned up 7.4 percent, franchised up 5.1 percent) and Texas Roadhouse (company-owned up 4.5 percent, franchised up 4.8 percent).

For details, please click here for the Green Sheet.

Foodservice equipment manufacturer Manitowoc has released their quarterly financial report. For data on Manitowoc and other foodservice suppliers, please click here.