Restaurant two-year check growth rates reached their highest point in a dozen years, according Black Box Intelligence data for the week ended Sept. 19.
Victor Fernandez, Black Box vice president for insights and knowledge, said the two-year average check growth rate was the highest since the Dallas-based analytics firm began gathering data in 2009.
The check growth rate was calculated on a two-year basis, Fernandez said, so “it’s capturing the huge increases in check last year due to the pandemic (larger orders, family bundles, etc.) and the effect of prices rising rapidly this year.”
The U.S. Consumer Price Index for August, released Sept. 14, noted that food away from home rose 4.7% over the last year. The index for limited-service meals rose 6.9% over the last 12 months, and the index for full-service meals rose 4.9%.
For August alone, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which calculates the index, said the food-away-from-home index rose 0.4% in the month after increasing 0.8% in July. The index for limited-service meals rose 0.8% in August, and the index for full-service meals increased 0.6%.
Restaurant Brands have been approaching price increases judiciously.
Ruth’s Hospitality Group Inc. made “surgical” increases in menu prices, including a 2.5% hike in May, to offset pressures in commodities as it continues to move toward full capacity in its steakhouse restaurants, executives at the Winter Park, Fla.-based fine-dining steakhouse brand said in August.
The Winter Park, Fla.-based fine-dining steakhouse brand with 140 units, in a second-quarter analysts call, said its same-store sales were up 5% despite pandemic capacity restrictions during much of the period.
However, Chuy’s Holdings Inc. is holding off on any price increases until 2022. Steven Hislop, CEO and president of the Austin, Texas-based 95-unit casual-dining Mexican brand, said,
“We usually take a price increase once a year. It's usually at the end of the first period of 2022, which would be in February, and we'll look at that.”
In other data released Tuesday by Black Box, the company said dine-in sales continue to be negative for full and limited service, but declines were larger for limited-service restaurants.
“All dayparts have seen an improvement in sales growth compared to August,” the firm said. “The top performing daypart continues to be mid-afternoon, followed by dinner and lunch. Although still underperforming the rest, late-night is on path to achieving its first month of sales growth since January of 2020.”
Black Box found hourly wage growth has been increasing steadily since the beginning of the year. “Wage growth for crew members in limited-service remained flat compared to June, but at a historically high level that shows the push for using higher wages as a resource to attract talent,” Black Box noted.
In full-service restaurants, wage increases for line cooks also accelerated in 2021. July data shows the rolling three-month average rising even further.
“While May and June didn’t see any major movement in staffing levels, restaurants started experiencing some improvement in July based on the average number of employees per location,” the company said.
Understaffing was being noted among the guest online mentions in Black Box Guest Intelligence, the company said.
“Family dining has seen the largest increase in ‘short staffed’ mentions vs. the beginning of the year and mentions are running about 30% higher than the industry overall in Q3 to-date,” the company said. “Casual dining is also trending about 10% higher than the industry.”
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