US restaurant traffic falls 1.8% in April, its sixth consecutive monthly decline, survey says; decline especially seen in casual-dining restaurants, which saw 2.7% drop

LOS ANGELES , May 16, 2014 () – According to the latest NRN-Miller survey, U.S. restaurant traffic has been on a decline, but consumers are spending more money when dining out, adding more to their check averages, Nation's Restaurant News reported May 15.

The study shows that traffic for the industry was down 1.8% in April, continuing the downward trend for the sixth consecutive month.

The decline has especially been seen in casual-dining restaurants, which saw a 2.7% drop in traffic, and fast-casual restaurants, which saw a 2.3% drop.

Fine-dining restaurants, on the other hand, were the only segment to receive more guests, experiencing a 1.3% rise in traffic.

Meanwhile, the report shows that the industrywide average check increased by 3.5% in April, up from 2.9% in March. People are spending more in restaurants, purchasing more appetizers, desserts, soft drinks and alcohol.

Larry Miller, founder and chief executive of the monthly MillerPulse report, said the study shows that consumers are feeling better and more positive about their financial situation as well as the the U.S. economy as a whole, but an increase in the average check size isn’t necessarily a good thing.

It’s “less healthy than growth in traffic,” he said.

Overall, restaurant operators are optimistic about the upcoming months despite concerns about commodity costs and the Affordable Care Act. About 40% of operators expect to see margin gains over the next six months, while 25% are expecting worse.

Yet, operators are anticipating higher commodity costs, expecting a commodity inflation of 2.6% throughout the next six months, according to the April survey.

In March, operators projected an inflation of 2.4%. 

“If consumers continue to shop the rest of the year as they are today, it’s going to be a good summer,” said one operator in the report.

The primary source of this article is Nation's Restaurant News, New York, New York, on May 15, 2014. Click here to read the primary source's full version of the article.

* All content is copyrighted by Industry Intelligence, or the original respective author or source. You may not recirculate, redistrubte or publish the analysis and presentation included in the service without Industry Intelligence's prior written consent. Please review our terms of use.