This Week In Foodservice

The editorial team aggregates key industry information and provides brief analysis to help foodservice professionals navigate the data.


The Latest Reports from the National Restaurant Association and More

The NRA reported there was a very slight increase in the August Performance Index.

The National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Performance Index hit 100.9 in August, up 0.1 from July. With a reading of greater than 100, the index remains in expansion mode but just barely. The Current Situation Index totaled 100.9, a 0.4-point increase. While operators report a net increase in August same-store sales, they also report a decline in customer traffic for the third consecutive month.

The RPI’s Expectations Index totaled 100.9, a 0.1-point decline. Once again, the results are somewhat contradicting as operators are positive about their sales in the future but have a negative outlook for the economy.

Economic News This Week

  • Gross domestic product declined by 0.6% in the second quarter of 2022, per the third estimate from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. GDP declined 1.6% in the first quarter, per this estimate from the BEA, and that is the same as previously published. While economists generally define a recession as two consecutive quarters of declining of GDP, some remain reluctant to use the “r” word. That is because other areas of the economy, like jobs data (see below), remain relatively strong. For that reason, many economists are starting to toss around the term growth recession, which indicates growth in some sections of the economy and contraction in others.
  • Personal income increased 0/3% and personal expenditures increased 0.4% in August, per data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. With the Consumer Price Index up 0.6%, inflation remains still a major factor in the U.S. economy.
  • Initial jobless claims totaled 193,000, a decrease of 16,000 for the week ending Sept. 24, per the U.S. Department of Labor. The 4-week moving average decreased by 8,750 claims for a total of 207,000.
  • Consumer confidence increased in September, per the Conference Board. This represents the second consecutive month where consumer confidence improved after declining from April through July. The Consumer Confidence Index is now at 108.0, up from 103.6 in August. Both the Present Situation Index and the Expectations Index increased but the Conference Board believes the possibility of a recession remains very real.

Foodservice News This Week

  • Chipotle Mexican Grill will begin testing a chip-making robot. Known as Chippy, the autonomous kitchen assistant, as the manufacturer refers to it, completely rolls out, fries and seasoned tortilla chips, which is a very time-consuming job when done by hand in a restaurant kitchen. Other chains using similar robots include White Castle, Panera Bread, McDonald’s, Starbucks and Buffalo Wild Wings, among others. But it should be noted that these are all in a testing mode and no chain has committed to taking these products system-wide.
  • Crop estimates for corn and soy have been lowered by double digits. The U.S. Department of Agriculture cites drought conditions for this projection which will have a major impact on already high food prices in the coming months.
  • McDonald’s is appealing to Millennials by bringing back a blast from their past: The Happy Meal. The latest version will include a Big Mac or Chicken McNuggets, fries and one of four figurines – Grimace, Hamburglar, Birdie and a new character, Cactus Buddy – in a colorful box. Hoodies and other merchandise will be available online.
  • Are Cracker Barrel’s demographics shifting? The chain has struggled to get its traditional customer base of consumers 65 years old and older to return. At the same time, though, Cracker Barrel has had a lot of success with younger consumers. Of major importance in attracting millennials and Gen Z guests was a beer and wine program, which Cracker Barrel launched in 2020 and is now available in roughly 550 of its 663 locations. Cracker Barrel also believes a build-your-own breakfast deal appeals to a younger demographic as does a successful catering program. Finally, the chain has upped its technology game, using a pay-at-the-table system that younger generations find appealing.
  • A pizza chain wants people to boycott pizza. Yes, you read that correctly. This is a marketing stunt by California Pizza Kitchen as the chain introduces its first burger. Those who do “boycott” pizza and order the burger will receive a coupon for a free 7-inch pizza on their next visit to one of the chain’s 180 restaurants.
  • Growth Chains: Fat Patties Burger & Beer will open its first restaurant this month in Baltimore. The Innovative Dining Group will open seven Sushi Roku restaurants and one BOA Steakhouse in 2022 and 2023. Salad & Go will open its 13th store in the Phoenix market later this month. Round Table Pizza will open a unit in San Antonio making its fourth unit in Texas. Roundtable has three locations in Dallas.

The latest comparable store sales for publicly held restaurant chains can be found by clicking here for the most recent Green Sheet