Restaurant sales

Restaurant sales are improving, with a few notable exceptions

Collage of Burger King, Domino's, Starbucks, Taco Bell, Shake Shack and McDonald's signs

Photo: Jeenah Moon (Getty Images), Naomi Baker (Getty Images), Ethan miller (Getty Images), Matt Cardy (Getty Images), Justin sullivan (Getty Images), Christophe Furlong (Getty Images)

The past year has been, shall we say, “less than kind” for the restaurant and hospitality industry, and when it comes to publicly traded restaurant chains, we know exactly how bad the bleeding was. Five months ago, it was hard for the industry to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and yet here we are, slowly returning to something akin to normalcy, with a hungry audience desperate for endless bowls of pasta and of human contact.

Industry publication News from the nation’s restaurant rounded up reports on last quarter results from some of America’s most popular restaurant chains, all of which include data from the last two weeks of March, when the US mass immunization program was just starting to take off; While it’s hard to determine what this industry might look like after our stomachs have spent a summer making up for lost time, there’s a good chance that compared to last quarter, restaurant chains are releasing the kind of sales reports that finally give the catering something to applaud.

The good news

  • The biggest winner from the pandemic has been delivery, so it’s no surprise that Dad johns had gangbusters; In its fiscal first quarter of 2021, the company saw same-store sales increase by 26%.
  • Not all good news is about delivery; during its last quarter ending April 11 Jack in the box recorded same-store sales growth of 20.6%.
  • Back to pizzas: Domino’s reported that its same-store sales were up 13.4%, but things aren’t just wine and roses, RRN reports. CEO Ritch Allison said the company faces “one of the most difficult staffing environments in a long time.” which might have something to do with wages.
  • In the sitting area, Texas roadhouse reports that sales at company-owned stores increased 18.5% from 2020 and 8.6% from 2019.
  • Chipotle has been bet big on digital sales, and it’s paying off: The company saw a 17.2% sales increase in its first quarter, with its digital business growing 133.9% and accounting for more than half of sales.
  • Mcdonalds recorded same-store sales growth of 13.6% …
  • And Wendy’s reported same-store sales growth of 13.5%. So close, Wendy’s! So close !
  • Starbucks saw same-store sales increase 9%, the first sales had a positive trend since the start of the pandemic last March, which means things are looking good as we head towards Frappuccino season.
  • Fast food conglomerate Miam brands had only positive news to report: sales to Pizza Hut are up 12%, Taco Bell is up 9%, and KFC, 8%.
  • Shake Shack started the pandemic by inviting us to make our own ShackBurgers and enters its next quarter with sales up 5.7%. Most of Shake Shack’s locations are in densely populated and highly touristy areas, which are slowly seeing traffic increase as local ordinances are lifted.
  • Surprisingly, Restaurant Brands International Inc. – owner of Burger King, Popeyes, and Tim Hortons – didn’t make the kind of numbers its competitors did. Last quarter sales to Burger Kingsales locations in the United States grew 6.6%; and overall, a meager 0.7%. Popeyes fared better globally with a 1.5% increase in sales, but when international sales are excluded that number drops to 0.9%. Both do better than Tim hortons, however, which saw its sales drop 2.3% in the last quarter.

The less good news

  • Not surprisingly, the majority of bleeding has occurred in the sit-down category. Darden Restaurants Inc. reported that comparable store sales declined 25.8% to Olive garden, 12.6% to LongHorn Steakhouse, and 36.9% for its Other brands during its fiscal quarter ending February 28.
  • It’s not all bad news for Brinker International, who reports that Chili’s restaurant sales increased 0.6%. Maggiano’s Little Italy, on the other hand, saw its sales fall by 29.6%.
  • When Denny’s first quarter ended March 31, the company announced that same-store sales were down 20%. But the good news is that the company announced that its April sales were only down 2%, so things are looking up!
  • Chris from Ruth reports that while overall sales were down 14.8% at the end of the first quarter on March 28, the situation appears to be improving at an exponential rate, with sales rising 72% during the month of March. Seems like people are celebrating getting the shot with big fancy steak dinners, and who can blame them? If there has ever been a situation that justifies this kind of taste extravagance, it is this.
  • And, finally, things continue to be terrible for Dave & Buster’s, which reported a 70% drop in same-store sales for its fourth quarter ending Jan. 31. Maybe things will improve in 2021, but we won’t know until the next report.