Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Could the delay of spring impact restaurant sales?

The first day of spring came and went, but winter still reigns in much of the country. In Louisiana, it hasn't been this cool, this late in March since 1955. While we still have our scarves and jackets in tow, in a few short weeks, the temperatures will creep up and we'll be reminiscing about these cooler than normal days.

According to National Restaurant Association research, nearly nine out of 10 restaurant operators say local weather conditions impact sales and customer counts. In addition, seven out of 10 say weather forecasts also have an impact.

Restaurateurs say sunny weather and winter temperatures warmer than normal have the strongest positive impact, while winter temperatures colder than normal have the strongest negative impact.

“Since weather conditions do affect consumer behavior in the regions that have seen heightened wintery conditions this March, an impact on restaurant sales can be expected, especially when compared to the more positive conditions a year ago. Even the loss of a party-of-five per day in a typical restaurant can make a difference. So, from a restaurateurs’ perspective, now is the time to think about how to nudge consumers into patronizing in the months ahead to recover that pent-up demand,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research for the NRA.

For example, consider a tableservice restaurant with monthly sales of $70,000, serving 7,000 customers monthly, with an average per-person check of $10. The loss of a five-party table per day for a month adds up to $1,500 less in sales. Reversely, an additional five-top per day for a month increases sales by that same amount.

While it's too early to assess the actual impact of the March winter storms, restaurant sales in January and February were tepid due to higher gas prices and payroll taxes cutting into consumers’ cash-on-hand. However, operators remain positive overall about future business conditions.

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