Restaurant owners were concerned that last year’s late Thanksgiving would probably make dining out in December a tough sell.
They were right.
December restaurant sales fell 2.1 percent, based on same-store results, according to Black Box Intelligence, which tracks restaurant sales and trends.
There were two reasons, said a report in QSR Magazine. One was that December sales in 2018 were healthy, which meant that restaurants had to stop that strong result, and the other was Thanksgiving, which fell on Nov. 28 last year.
That shortened the holiday shopping season. Apparently, shoppers were more interested in getting their retail business done, than they were in dining out.
The issue seemed to hit restaurants across the board. Out of 11 regions that Black Box watches, only the west showed an improvement in same-store sales.
New England, Texas and New York-New Jersey all showed declines, with traffic down 7.64 percent for New England.
Restaurant owners are trying to figure out whether this is a temporary blip, or whether it’s of greater concern for 2020, QSR says.
In a way, the slower results might not have been all bad news for the industry, which has had trouble finding cooks, servers and other staff. All manner of restaurants, from fast food to fine dining, are trying to fill job openings.
And while some entrepreneurs are doing well, restaurants continue to shut.
The Boston Business Journal reported last week that flatbread sandwich maker Cosi has closed more than two dozen outlets during the past few weeks, including eight in its home state of Massachusetts.
Cosi, which was founded 30 years ago, based on a Parisian cafe, has just two restaurants left in Massachusetts.
Back in August, the Business Journal said that Cosi had 48 company run and 17 franchise operations in 11 states, the District of Columbia and Costa Rica.
Cosi’s outlets peaked at 151 in 2008. It sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2016, and emerged in 2017 as a private company.
Lately, it had been opening new restaurants, including four in 2019. Last summer, QSR reported on its expansion plans, which included a push into digital ordering, and a rotisserie chicken test.
But the Business Journal says Cosi now has fewer than 30 restaurants nationwide.
Cosi’s Twitter account has been dark since before Christmas. Its last tweet reminded customers to buy holiday gift cards.