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Same-store sales scorecard

Blog: Why fast food and Domino’s were big winners in a tough third quarter

This post is part of the On the Margin blog.

Same-store sales of publicly traded restaurants in the third calendar quarter were much like they’ve been all year long, which is bad for fast-casual chains and bar & grill chains and anybody that competes with the big burger concepts.

Most companies have reported results, and average same-store sales in the most recent period were down 1.2 percent, roughly in line with the industry’s performance this year.

Here are this quarter’s winners and losers:

Winner: Fast food

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Fast food is not dead.

Taco Bell

No sector performed nearly as well as did quick-service chains. Companies like McDonald’s Corp., Del Taco Restaurants Inc., Burger King and Taco Bell outperformed the overall industry, averaging 1.1 percent same-store sales growth. 

McDonald’s was the best-performing chain in that group, with 4.1 percent same-store sales in the U.S., matching Del Taco.

Loser: Fast casual

Hey, remember when fast casual chains were taking over the future of food? That still might be true, but the sector’s ride to the top of the restaurant industry has taken an unexpected break.


Fast casual chains’ same-store sales on average declined 2.4 percent in the quarter. Only Freshii Inc. (up 5.1 percent), Wingstop Inc. (4.1 percent) and Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. (up 1 percent) were positive among that group.

Winner: Domino’s Pizza Inc.

Stop us if you’ve heard this one: The best performing publicly traded restaurant chain in the country, at least from a same-store sales standpoint, is Domino’s.


The Ann Arbor, Mich.-based pizza chain’s U.S. same-store sales increased 8.4 percent in the third quarter. 

By comparison, the other pizza chains in the publicly traded universe averaged a 3.6-percent decline. That’s a ridiculous 1,200-basis point gap between Domino’s and its primary pizza competitors.

Loser: Pie Five 

The weakest performing chain in the quarter was also a pizza concept: Pie Five. The fast-casual pizza chain’s same-store sales plunged 17.3 percent in the quarter ended Sept. 24.

On a two-year, stacked basis, Pie Five’s same-store sales have fallen 32 percent. That’s a stunning decline for a chain not suffering from some weather or recessionary event.

Pie Five

Winner: Texas Roadhouse

The best-performing casual-dining chain, again, was Texas Roadhouse, where same-store sales increased 4.5 percent at corporate locations.

To put that into perspective, casual dining chains averaged a 1.8 percent decline in the period. And the next best chain was Darden Restaurant Inc.’s LongHorn Steakhouse, at 2.6 percent. 

Loser: Anybody near hurricanes 

Hurricanes Irma and Harvey hammered Florida and Texas and the restaurants in those states in September.

Perhaps no company knows this more than Fiesta Restaurant Group Inc. Its Pollo Tropical chain is primarily in Florida, and its same-store sales declined 10.9 percent in the quarter ended Oct. 1.

Pollo Tropical

Taco Cabana, meanwhile, is out of Texas, and its same-store sales fell 13.1 percent in the period.

Jonathan Maze, Nation’s Restaurant News senior financial editor, does not directly own stock or interest in a restaurant company. 

Contact Jonathan Maze at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter at @jonathanmaze

TAGS: Finance
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