GuestMetrics, which collects check-level data from point-of-sale systems at more than 10,000 restaurants, reports trends for the four-week period that ended Nov. 30.
Traffic in the on-premise channel was down 0.1 percent, which continues the improved trend over the past three months vs. the approximately 1.5 percent traffic decline during the first half of the year. The improved trend was attributed to the benefits of lower gas prices and improved consumer sentiment.
Overall food and beverage retail sales were up 2.6 percent, driven by alcohol dollar sales up 0.6 percent and food sales up 3.6 percent. Food volume was up 1.5 percent compared with a rise of 0.4 percent year to date, and food prices were holding steady at +2.1 percent. Thus, GuestMetrics deduced consumers are taking the savings from lower gas prices and ordering more food with smaller dishes (in other words, appetizers/sides), which is still gaining share vs. entrees.
The biggest improvements were noted in the casual-dining segment and the lodging segment. Independent fine-dining restaurants experienced traffic decline, but at a slower rate than earlier in the year. Bars and clubs remained pressured, with traffic down 2.2 percent, likely a function of economic pressure on the 21- to 27-year-old demographic, as well as the dynamics driving the pressure on the late-night daypart.
Beer volume was down 3.6 percent, which is in-line with the YTD trend, while wine volume was down 1 percent and spirits volume declined 0.7 percent. Beer continues to have the highest price/mix of the three segments, with price/mix up 3.6 percent in the four-week period compared with a 0.9 percent increase for wine and 2.2 percent for spirits. Trade-up to higher-end beers is driving a big part of the 3.6 percent price/mix for the category.
Craft beer share was up 1.3 percent vs. up 1.9 percent YTD as share gains have moderated in recent months. Premium Light share was down 1.6 percent vs. down 1.9 percent YTD. Cider share is up 0.5 percent, which is line with its YTD trend.
IPA continues to be the fastest-growing beer style, gaining 1.3 percent share points in the four-week period ending Nov. 30.