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Report: Restaurant transactions up, check average down

Consumers still in search of discounts, officials say

Consumer spending stabilized in September at restaurants, where more robust transaction growth offset heavier declines in average checks, according to payment processor First Data.

In the company’s “September 2010 SpendTrend” report, which measures same-store consumer spending via credit, signature debit, PIN debit and EBT cards at U.S. merchant locations, First Data found that the month’s year-over-year dollar volume grew 7.6 percent, down slightly from August’s 7.9-percent growth rate. Transactions grew 9.2 percent from a year earlier, compared with August’s 8.3-percent rise in transactions.

Yet, average tickets for all consumer spending in September were down 1.5 percent compared with a year earlier.

“This decline was the fourth consecutive month of lower average tickets,” First Data said. “The decline in average tickets was broad-based. Consumers continued to search for discounts, which was reflected by lower average tickets and more frequent purchases.”

That was especially true for the restaurant sector, which logged a 7.6-percent increase in year-over-year dollar volume growth, identical to the total spending increase across all consumer segments. Foodservice establishments posted a 12.7-percent gain in transactions for September, its highest increase in 18 months and the largest jump of any sector for the month.

However, the sector also had the largest decrease in average check, at negative 4.5 percent, for the month of September, as restaurant guests either took advantage of aggressive promotions or sought out lower-price combo meals and value menus.

First Data, whose U.S. headquarters is in Atlanta, is a global technology and payment processing firm, which services more than 5 million merchant locations, more than 2,000 credit and debit card issuers.

Contact Mark Brandau at [email protected].

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