Restaurant sales are improving ... and we are thankful

Sales at restaurants across the U.S. and Ohio are reportedly improving. This is confirmed by multiple sources and my conversations with owners, operators and general managers.

According to Larry Miller, a long-time restaurant analyst I worked with for years when I led Wall Street responsibilities for The Wendy’s Co. and Tim Hortons, same-store sales increased 1.4 percent at restaurants in October. It was the best performance he has tracked since February of last year, according his “MillerPulse” index.

That’s the good news as sales turned positive for the first time since June. More good news was that casual dining was the bright spot. Its same-store sales performance in the month was its best since September 2015. Brands such as Outback, Carrabba’s Italian Grill and Applebee’s all reported that sales perked up in October. Miller says casual-dining chains have been working on to-go orders and delivery. The Rusty Bucket Restaurant and Tavern is working hard on delivery.

On the concern side, “traffic” is still negative (click here for the MillerPulse chart). Traffic is the number of customers coming through the doors at restaurants, which is a MUCH better indicator of industry and brand health. In fact, according to Miller, it was the 27th month in last 29 that traffic fell.

One big winner during the third quarter, according to Nations Restaurant News (NRN), was Domino’s. I’ve written about the pizza chain before and they continue to rule our industry. Their U.S. same-store sales increased 8.4 percent in the third quarter. NRN says other publicly traded pizza chains averaged a 3.6-percent decline. That’s simply incredible. The one Unique Selling Proposition (USP) that Domino’s owns is the best technology in the restaurant universe.

While the ORA can’t help you catch up to Domino’s overnight, I encourage you to visit our #ORATech page on our website to begin upgrading your digital footprint ASAP.

Our hope is that customer counts improve over the holidays and that our industry ends the year on a strong note.

​Note: To contact Larry Miller, click on: