Report Finds Milder Winter Pushes Restaurant Sales Growth

January 2020 was the fifth warmest January on record, with 48 contiguous states having experienced above- to much-above average temperatures. This unusually mild winter weather, however, has made for a rather successful start of the year for restaurant businesses.

According to a recent report from Black Box Intelligence using data based on weekly sales from more than 47,000 restaurants and $75 billion in annual sales, same-store sales saw a 2.3 percent growth during January, which is the best result posted by restaurants in over four years.

Additionally, further supporting the positive effects that a milder winter has on restaurant businesses, it was also found that five regions that typically would have experienced extreme weather during January (which would’ve kept many guests dining at home) achieved same-store sales growth over 4.0 percent.

These regions include the Mid-Atlantic, New England, the Midwest, New York-New Jersey, and the Mountain Plains. On the other hand, regions where winter weather is less of a factor (the Southwest, Texas, Florida) experienced the weakest same-store sales growth in January.

However, although this result shows an impressive sales growth, it’s not an accurate representation of the current state of the restaurant industry.

Why Restaurants Shouldn’t Celebrate Just Yet

Even as the economy continues to expand, it will still be difficult for the industry to see a significant improvement as certain uncontrollable factors could negatively impact future economic growth. However, on a positive note, consumer confidence remains extremely high, which means that demand doesn’t seem to be fading. But in order for restaurants to effectively attract and retain guests, one thing cannot be overlooked.

Service is King

For years, customers have been expressing that superior service is the element of the dining experience that will most likely lead them to reward restaurants with incremental sales, and their comments have been proven to be true.

Customers are increasingly turning to restaurants that deliver superior service, so focusing on enhancing this aspect is essential for bringing in more guests. During 2019, service was the element of the restaurant experience that most set top-performing restaurants apart from those that were underperforming. And the gap in customer net sentiment between top and bottom performers was greater in service, compared to what it was for food, beverage, ambiance and even value.

One way restaurants can set their service apart is by providing customers with digital systems that help make their experience seamless. OneDine’s all-in-one solution, for example, offers dozens of features and functions that elevate a restaurant’s service, which include:

  • Tableside ordering and payment, giving guests the hassle-free ability to easily view menus and pay for their meals
  • Wearable devices that allow staff to receive alerts about service requests, payment verification, speed of service and bad reviews
  • Real-time order status, offering instantaneously updated information that helps make servers more efficient

Relatively good weather has helped restaurants gain strong same-store sales growth this winter. However, the key to maintaining good business year-round, regardless of what it’s like outside, is by consistently offering guests exceptional, seamless dining experiences, and comprehensive digital solutions, like OneDine, can help restaurant brands achieve that.