2012 Restaurant Sales Pressured by Consumers Shifting from Entrees to Less Expensive Appetizers

Sales at US table service restaurants decelerated throughout 2012, ending down in Q4. Given the tough economy, consumers were economizing by shifting from higher priced entrees to lower priced appetizers and side dishes.

Jan 15, 2013, 12:01 ET from GuestMetrics LLC

LEESBURG, Va., Jan. 15, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- According to GuestMetrics, based on its proprietary database of POS transactions of over $8 billion dollars in transactions and over 250 million checks from restaurants and bars across the United States over the past two years, sales at table service restaurants and bars started 2012 off favorably, but then weakened throughout the course of the year.  "Comparing 2012 against 2011, the quarterly growth progression was +2.7% for 1Q12, +1.4% for 2Q12, +0.5% for 3Q12, and then a decline of -0.5% by 4Q12," said Bill Pecoriello, CEO of GuestMetrics LLC. "So for the full year 2012, this means sales were up 1.1% compared to 2011.  Digging deeper we see that food sales were up 0.7% while alcohol beverage sales were up 1.9%. Food sales benefited from 1% implied pricing but the number of food items ordered was actually down 0.3%.  Given food represents 53% of all items sold in table service restaurants and 64% of all dollar sales, the decline in number of food items ordered obviously has a large impact on restaurant operators. "  

"To get a better understanding of what drove the decline in the number of food items ordered during 2012, we analyzed the specific types of food being sold.  The main culprit of the decline was entrees and desserts, which account for 52% and 6% of all food items sold, respectively.  In 2012, entrees declined by -1.5% and desserts by -2.3%.  On the flipside, our data indicates that sales of appetizers & sides, which account for 29% of food items sold, increased +2.8% in 2012," said Peter Reidhead, VP of Strategy and Insights at GuestMetrics.  Our partner company, Consumer Edge Insight, has found that among consumers spending less at restaurants, skipping food courses was among the top 5 ways to economize.  Based on data from GuestMetrics' POS database, given the large difference in average price for an entree ($11.56) and that of the average appetizer & side ($5.57), a shift from entrees to appetizers & sides would have a negative impact on price/mix and therefore on the topline of restaurant operators.  

"Given the slow growth environment and shifts in consumer behavior, it's more critical than ever that restaurant operators align their menu offerings with the latest consumer trends. Looking specifically at what drove the increase in sales in appetizers & sides, we see that the largest growers were chicken wings, oysters, ribs and empanadas," said Brian Barrett, President of GuestMetrics. "But in terms of the decline in entrees, the largest entree categories of steak, burgers, and pizza actually held up fine.  The decline was driven almost entirely by the long 'tail' of over five thousand less prevalent entrees that we track in our database, suggesting there may be an underlying shift taking place in consumer preference to more mainstream entrees.  For desserts, by far the largest declines were experienced by brownies and cakes. Despite the fall in overall desserts in 2012, within the segment there still were certain items growing with the fastest being cheesecake and creme brulee.

About GuestMetrics LLC
GuestMetrics LLC is revolutionizing how the hospitality industry operates.  Despite the dawn of the Digital Age having begun more than three decades ago, the hospitality industry essentially functions the same way it did centuries before.  GuestMetrics has cracked the code by collecting data from tens of thousands of restaurants and turning billions of raw transactions into intelligible data that is fundamentally transforming the business operations of everyone from the independently-owned bar/restaurant on the corner, to multi-national chains, to the food & beverage companies that supply them.  Please visit www.GuestMetrics.com for more information and to arrange for a free demonstration.


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SOURCE GuestMetrics LLC