Encouraging Signs For Restaurant Industry Sales, But Underlying Worry About Traffic

#ORATech is one service that could help restaurateurs

Restaurateurs track all kinds of data. They look at customer feedback, food trends, wage inflation, food and labor costs, turnover, inventory turns and more. Near the top of the list for owners, franchisees and general managers is customer traffic and sales compared to previous periods. This information is the lifeblood of a restaurant as leaders attempt to grow sales, offset rising costs and make a profit.

News from BlackBox Intelligence shows April was a good month for restaurants. Their index of 170 brands across the USA, representing about 30,000 restaurants, indicates same-store sales rose 1.5% during the month. That is a strong number compared to the past few years and the best since September 2015. Read more here.

This is important and positive because restaurants are leading indicators of the economy. When consumers feel confident, they tend to eat out more often at restaurants, order delivery more often and spend more with a higher check. Sales growth enables restaurateurs to add jobs, reinvest in their business and improve everything they do for customers.

However, there is a concerning element to the BlackBox report. It indicated restaurant traffic was down 1.4% during April. This means restaurants manufactured sales gains through higher prices, menu management and bundling.

Experts in our industry believe this is the result of over-building. Simply, the number of restaurant locations is growing faster than the population can support. The National Restaurant Association says nearly 60,000 new restaurants open during a year in the USA. This impacts every restaurant and could be shifting customer counts and market share from existing restaurants.

As a result of intense competition and pressure from a greater supply, restaurant owners and GMs must be on their A+ game. Every element of their restaurant, including the brand and marketing, must be outstanding. Their menu and attention to delicious food must be meticulous. Their focus on hospitality must be outrageously wonderful.

In most cases, this also means restaurateurs must become technology experts to address point-of-sale systems, payroll and back office solutions, credit card processing, websites, social media, online ordering and delivery.

To help with this, the ORA has developed a Center of Excellence called #ORATech. Our Technology Committee, made up of restaurant professionals throughout Ohio, is producing “white papers” on a number of technology topics and links to valuable information. This is a free service to our members. Check it out at