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Food Service Industry Updates

For Restaurants, Were September Sales Good News or Bad?


This is one of those glass is half full or glass is half empty reports, which makes sense considering it has to do with the foodservice industry.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, eating and drinking places had sales of $55.6 billion in September. While foodservice sales trended higher in September from August, it was at the slowest pace since the economy began to reopen from coronavirus-imposed lockdowns in March, according to the National Restaurant Association (NRA). Still, sales were up. So is this good news or bad news?

And while sales in September were up $1.1 billion or 2.1% from August, that number represented only about half of the gains that were registered in July and August in both dollar volume and percentage terms, according to NRA. But being up $1.1 billion dollars is better than being down $1.1. billion dollars. So, again, good news or bad news?

Overall, eating and drinking place sales in September still remained nearly $10 billion — or 15% — below their pre-coronavirus levels in January and February, NRA stated. But the question is: Could it be worse?

The U.S. Census Bureau reported that overall retail sales in September were up 1.9% from August, more than double what was expected, which was excellent news. But the NRA didn’t take the news so well, noting that its meager sales gain paled in comparison to the gains made at clothing stores (11.0%); department stores (9.7%); sporting goods, hobby and book stores (5.7%); and motor vehicle dealers (4.0%). The NRA said consumers may be spending their money in other places besides foodservice establishments.

The bottom line from the NRA: If this trend continues in the months ahead, it likely means that the restaurant industry’s recovery will be even more drawn out. That’s not good news.

The total shortfall in restaurant and foodservice sales has likely surpassed $200 billion during the last seven months, NRA reported.


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