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I'm Just Sayin' There were Signs

OK you folks in the US… remember January? It was cold and stormy (if you didn’t live in Fremont, California) unlike the previous January when it had been darn right summery. In the northeast you had flu-mageddon. Gas prices were up a bunch. Consumer confidence dropped AND the tax holiday, which was part of the stimulus enacted in the depths of the Great Recession, expired. The last half of January was not good for the foodservice industry and kicked off a two month funk.

I didn’t notice this at the time but last December, NPD’s Food Safety Monitor, which tracks all sorts of consumer attitudes including dining out intentions, noted a strong uptick in the number of people saying that they planned to dine out less in the coming months. That number stayed up for a month and then eased off as the winter waned.

I’m not saying it predicted the dip. I’m just saying that there were signs.

And it has been a rough spring. Like the winter being compared to strong growth in 2012. But the signs are hopeful. For the 50 chains in NPD SalesTrack® Weekly, which account for 17% of all the restaurant locations in the industry and a little more than a quarter of all the sales in the industry, same store sales ticked up in April and again a little more strongly in May. These came on top of the last two months of the spring surge in 2012.

Coincidentally, NPD’s Food Safety Monitor shows a steady slip in the number of consumers who say they’ll visit a quick service or full service restaurant less in the next month (just to be sure:  that’s a good thing). I’m sure our research science guys would get all R-squared on me over my implied correlation but you can look at the lines and decide for yourselves.

I’m not sayin’. I’m just sayin’.

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About Bob O'Brien

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Bob O’Brien is global senior vice president for market researcher The NPD Group, foodservice sector. He joined NPD’s foodservice division in 1987. He has been responsible for driving foodservice analysis outside the United States, leading the launch of CREST® Japan, China, Australia and the new CREST® Mexico pilot project. Bob speaks frequently to industry and management groups. He can be reached at the NPD Group.

Mr. O'Brien's column on foodservice is syndicated to Blue MauMau by permission of The NPD Group.

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