Same-Store Sales Still Rising for Restaurants

Although the COVID-19 surge hasn't hurt restaurant sales, customers have concerns about cleanliness.

  • Same-store sales growth for restaurants increased by 1.3 percent in July 2021 compared to the previous month, while same-store traffic growth took a hit.
  • Guests seem to be particularly concerned about clean tables, floors and bathrooms, according to a report by Black Box.

Related: N.C. pizzeria to require proof of vaccination for dine-in guests

The latest surge in COVID-19 cases hasn’t hurt restaurants much so far, with same-store sales growth rising by 1.3 percentage points in July 2021 compared to June this year, according to a new Black Box survey reported by Nation’s Restaurant News (NRN).

Same-store sales growth hit 8.1 percent in July, marking the fifth straight month of positive growth for restaurants and the strongest performance in more than three years. But same-store traffic growth was down 3.7 percent. “Encouragingly, this is the smallest loss in guest counts recorded during any month since the beginning of the pandemic,” NRN notes.

NRN notes that new cases of the Delta variant of COVID-19 could hurt sales in the coming weeks, particularly in pandemic hotspots.

The Black Box report also found that more than 50 percent of “food” and “service” mentions on restaurant review sites and social media posts were classified as positive. Both are improvements over July 2019 (6.5 percent higher for “food” and 4.8 percent higher for “service”).

However, guest sentiment declined, especially on the subject of restaurant “ambiance”—“cleanliness” in particular. For full-service restaurants, “cleanliness” net sentiment dropped by 13 percent during the most recent quarter, while it fell by 16 points for limited-service restaurants. Common themes centered around the cleanliness of tables, floors, tableware, cutlery and bathrooms. NRN attributes the declines at least in part to the ongoing labor crisis as restaurants continue to struggle to find staff in the COVID-19 era.