Retail sales in the U.S. increased 0.7 percent in July compared to June, per an advance report from the United States Census Bureau.

best month-over-month increase since March. Given the fact that retail sales are roughly two thirds of the U.S. economy, July’s sales results are extremely important. And with the manufacturing sector slowing and business investment lagging, retail sales become doubly significant.

Compared to July of 2018, retail sales were up +3.4 percent for 2019. The Census Bureau estimates that in the 7 months ending in July, total retail sales increased of 3.1 percent.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s advance estimate for July foodservice sales was +1.1 percent over June. This is the strongest month-over-month sales performance for restaurants and bars this year. July sales this year were up 3.8 percent from July 2018. And, the sales estimate for the 7-month period ending in July increased 4.1 percent over the same time period last year.

Overall, this was a very good month for restaurants. Time will tell if this positive performance will continue.

As frequently pointed out, there are some limitations and cautions when using this data. Due to the data’s limited sample size, these are advanced numbers and are subject to revision. The sales data covers restaurants and bars only. The Census Bureau does not survey operators in the following segments: hotels, resorts, clubs, business and industry, healthcare, schools and colleges, and military. Some sales statistics are adjusted for calendar changes, holidays, weekends but not for menu price changes.

Economic News This Week

Foodservice News This Week

  • The Consumer Price Index for Food was unchanged in July from June. (June was unchanged from May.) In the 12 months ending in July, the index for food increased 1.8 percent. For July the index for food at home fell 0.1 percent from June while the index for food away from home rose 0.2 percent. In the last 12 months food prices for food at home were up 0.6 percent while the index for food away from home prices jumped 3.2 percent.
  • J. Alexander’s announces it will conduct a strategic review. When 9 out of 10 companies use the term “strategic review,” it simply means they’re up for sale but J. Alexander’s top management insists that they will consider all options. The company could be sold or they could acquire one or merge with a “complementary concept.” Time will tell what the board of directors really have on their minds.
  • Fazoli’s will introduce a new restaurant design featuring a new color scheme including warm, rich tones as well a new technology like self-ordering kiosks and a pickup counter for mobile aps and online orders. Fazoli’s hopes to have the entire system remodeled by the end of 2021. Remodeled locations see close to a 11 percent sales increase, a 9.0 percent rise in traffic and an increase in guest review scores.
  • Sysco announced the acquisition of J. Kings Food Service Professionals, a broadline foodservice distributor located in New York. J. Kings also services foodservice operators in Connecticut and New Jersey and has sales of approximately $150 million annually. Terms of the purchase were not disclosed.
  • Clark Crew BBQ — with backing from Famous Dave’s — will open a 7,200-square-foot restaurant in Oklahoma City. The building was formerly a Macaroni Grill until it folded in 2017. Clark Crew BBQ has earned numerous food-related awards.
  • Growth Chains: Marco’s Pizza plans on open 15 locations in the Denver area by 2023. Baskin Robins will open 10 stores in upstate New York. Quaker Steak & Lube will open restaurants in Pittsburgh and Cleveland.
  • Comparable Store Sales Reports: Brinker International (Chili’s company owned up 1.5 percent, Chili’s franchised up 0.9 percent and Maggiano’s down 0.2 percent), Chuy’s Holdings up 1.9 percent, Cracker Barrel up 1.3 percent, Famous Dave’s (company owned down 0.8 percent and franchised up 0.7 percent), J. Alexander’s Holdings, (J. Alexander’s up 0.3 percent and Stoney River Steakhouse up 0.3 percent) and Potbelly’s Sandwich Shops down 4.0 percent.

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