According to GuestMetrics, based on its POS database of over $8 billion in annual sales, while table service restaurants and bars experienced a slight sales decline of 0.3% in the 4 weeks ending February 24th, the trend improved vs. the 1.1% decline during the 8-week period ending January 27th.
The casual dining segment performed the worst with sales down 4.4% in February (vs. down 5.2% in December/January) while fine dining grew a strong 4.2% in February vs. 2.3% growth in December/January. This is consistent with the higher income consumer holding up well year-to-date while the low and middle income consumer remains under pressure.
"On-premise was generally quite weak during the holiday season and January, but there were some improvements in the trend in recent weeks consistent with the February government retail sales report," said Bill Pecoriello, CEO of GuestMetrics LLC. "Based on our data, on-premise alcohol volume was down 2.1% in the 4 weeks ending February 24th compared to volume declining 3.6% for the 8 weeks ending January 27. We looked at an 8-week view of December/January due to the shift of New Year's Eve. Alcohol beverage dollar sales were up 1.2% for the latest 4 weeks compared to up 0.3% in the prior 8 week period as pricing was up 3.3%, a slight moderation from the 3.8% increase in the prior 8 weeks."
"Looking specifically at alcoholic drinks sold, while beer volumes were still in negative year-over-year territory, they improved to down 3.2% in the latest 4 weeks vs. down 5.1% in the prior 8 week period," said Peter Reidhead, VP of Strategy and Insights at GuestMetrics. "Similarly, wine volume was up 3% vs. down 0.7% in the prior 8-week period, and spirits volume was down 2.8%, similar to the down 3% of the prior 8 weeks. Beer dollar sales were up 0.7% in the last 4 weeks vs. down 1.1% in the prior 8-week period with price/mix up 3.9%. Wine sales were up 2.7% in the latest 4 weeks vs. up 1.4% in the prior 8-week period with price/mix down 0.4%. Spirits sales were up 0.7% in the latest 4 weeks vs. up 0.5% in the prior 8 weeks with price/mix up 3.4%."
"After seeing fairly meaningful inflation in pricing across many of the on-premise categories during the second half of 2012 from craft beers to chicken wings, there were signs in February that pricing may have peaked, which should be helpful for restaurant traffic and volumes," said Brian Barrett, President of GuestMetrics. "While overall table service and bar price/mix was up +3.5% during the 8-week period surrounding the holidays, it was only up +2.4% for the most recent 4-week period. A moderation in food pricing, which was only up 1.9% in the latest 4 weeks vs. up 3.5% in the prior 8 weeks, was a key contributor to the moderation in overall restaurant price/mix."
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