Inflation-adjusted restaurant sales declined in September
Consumers maintained their total dollar spending in restaurants in September, but the comparatively larger gains in menu prices revealed the continuation of a downward trend in real sales.
Eating and drinking places* registered total sales of $87.2 billion on a seasonally adjusted basis in September, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Census Bureau. That was up from August’s upward-revised volume of $86.8 billion – and marked the second consecutive monthly increase in nominal sales.
While overall consumer spending in restaurants trended modestly higher in recent months, much of that growth was the result of higher menu prices. After adjusting for menu price increases, eating and drinking place sales declined in three of the last four months.
In inflation-adjusted terms, average monthly sales in the third quarter (July – September) were $1 billion lower than they were during the second quarter (April – June).
*Eating and drinking places are the primary component of the U.S. restaurant and foodservice industry, which prior to the coronavirus pandemic generated approximately 75 percent of total restaurant and foodservice sales.
Read more analysis and commentary from the Association's chief economist Bruce Grindy.