The Census Bureau reported total U.S. retail sales crept up 0.2 percent in January from December. The forecast called for sales to be flat for the month. Compared to January of 2018, sales rose 2.3 percent. The bad news was that December sales were revised down to minus 1.6 percent vs. the advance report of minus 1.2 percent.

Restaurants and drinking places outperformed the total retail market rising 0.7 percent in January compared to December. Restaurants and bars sales were up 5.4 percent over January of last year. And, restaurants and drinking places’ advance sales for December were revised upward from minus 0.7 percent to +0.1 percent.

Certainly this wasn’t a stellar month for the restaurant industry, but slight growth beats being down. This report comes with  limitations and cautions. The advance data is based on a small sample subject to revision

The research is conducted only with restaurants and drinking places; it excludes 30 percent to 40 percent of the foodservice industry including hotels, resorts, employee feeding, schools, colleges, healthcare and military.

Some of the statistics are adjusted for seasonal variations, holidays and weekends but none of the data is adjusted for menu price changes.

Economic News This Week

Foodservice News This Week

  • Foodservice hired minimally in February with the government reporting the industry added just 1,600 new employees during the month. Labor experts advise not to worry because it’s just one month and other factors of the economy remain strong.
  • 7-Eleven plans to open six test stores across the U.S. to try out new concepts. One test involves a Laredo Taco Company restaurant. (7-Eleven owns Laredo Taco.) Also under test is a cafe serving coffee drinks and made-to-order smoothies and shakes. Another test includes wine and craft beer on tap for on-premise consumption or to go.
  • Red Robin Gourmet Burgers will offer Donatos Pizza in its restaurants. Columbus, Ohio-based Donatos will sell its pizza in 24 Red Robin locations.
  • Famous Dave’s financials improved during the company’s last quarter. The chain attributes, in part, its higher sales to newly renovated restaurants. The company encourages franchisees to invest $100,000 to $300,000 to update their restaurants, claiming the operators could recover the expense within two years.
  • Corporate Stirrings: Papa John’s International has reached an agreement with John Schnatter, the firm’s founder and former chairman, to resign his seat on the chain’s board of directors. The agreement calls for the replacement to be acceptable to both Schnatter and Starboard Value LP. Starboard Value recently purchased 10 percent of Papa John’s. Schnatter reportedly still owns approximately 30 percent of the pizza chain. The sale of P.F. Chang’s to Paulson & Company and TriArtisan Capital is now official. The former owner was Centerbridge Partners. Terms were not disclosed but it had been reported the price was in the $700 million range.  Casey’s General Stores Inc. acquired the Fantasy’s Convenience Stores and Ride The Wave car washes. All are in the Omaha metro area. Casey’s plans an extensive remodel for the stores so all locations can offer pizza, donuts, made-to-order sandwiches and other freshly made food items. Price of the deal was not given.
  • Comparable Store Sales Report: Bad Daddy Hamburgers up 0.2 percent Baskin Robbins down 3.7 percent, CEC Entertainment up 3.3 percent, Chuy’s Holdings up 0.9 percent, Diversified Restaurant Holdings up 2.2 percent, El Pollo Loco (System up 4.4 percent, company owned up 3.7 percent and franchised up 5.1 percent), Famous Dave’s (Company owned up 2.2 percent and franchised down 1.5 percent), Good Times Burgers down 5.2 percent, Habit Burger up 2.4 percent, Rave Restaurant Group (Five Pie Pizza down 3.6 and Pizza Inn up 2.7 percent) and Shake Shack up 2.3 percent.

For details and same store sales of other chains, please click here for the latest Green Sheet.