The bitter winter weather impacting multiple regions within the U.S. also caused a big chill within the restaurant industry. After registering record highs in November, restaurant sales fell for the second consecutive month in January, reports National Restaurant Association's chief economist Bruce Grindy, and the weather is being blamed for a big part of the decline.
The preliminary figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau found that sales for eating and drinking spots totaled $46.7 billion in January on a seasonally-adjusted basis, down 0.6 percent from December’s sales volume of $46.9 billion.
The January decline follows a 0.7 percent drop in December, which came on the heels of five consecutive monthly gains, notes Grindy. When combined, the declines in December and January sales shaved nearly $1 billion off November’s record high volume of $47.3 billion.
While the weather negatively impacted overall retail sales during December and January, the restaurant industry experienced declines that were more dramatic. In December, total retail sales dipped 0.1 percent and in January they dipped 0.4 percent. The combined decline of the last two months for retail sales was less than half of the drop-off in restaurant sales.
Grocery stores were the beneficiaries of the downtick in restaurant traffic, with sales rising 1.7 percent and 0.4 percent in December and January, respectively.
Despite the recent declines, the outlook for the restaurant industry for the rest of the year remains positive. The NRA expects the industry to post sales growth of 3.6 percent in 2014, driven by an improving economy and elevated levels of pent-up demand among consumers.
By Joann Whitcher