October 17, 2023

Restaurant sales continued to trend higher in September

September represented the seventh consecutive month of restaurant sales growth.

Consumers continued to prioritize restaurants in their spending decisions in September – bolstered by elevated pent-up demand and a labor market that is showing little signs of stalling.

Eating and drinking places* registered total sales of $91.9 billion on a seasonally adjusted basis in September, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Census Bureau. That was up a healthy 0.9% from August and marked the 7th consecutive month of sales growth. 

In total for the third quarter, consumer spending in restaurants increased 9.7% from the third quarter of 2022. That was more than 4 times stronger than the modest 2.2% sales gain in non-restaurant retail sectors during the same 4-quarter period.

Real restaurant sales also trended higher in recent months, as sales gains outpaced increases in menu prices. After adjusting for menu price inflation, eating and drinking place sales were up 3.0% between the third quarters of 2022 and 2023.

*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% of total restaurant and foodservice sales. Monthly sales figures presented above represent total revenues at all eating and drinking place establishments. This differs from the National Restaurant Association’s sales projections, which represent food and beverage sales at establishments with payroll employees. 

Read more analysis and commentary from the Association's chief economist Bruce Grindy.