- Full-service restaurant tickets increased nearly 20% during Q2 2021 on a two-year basis due to fewer small orders and higher menu prices related to cost inflation, according to Black Box Intelligence data released on Wednesday.
- The number of transactions of $70 or higher surpassed what it was two years ago, while orders under $30 are down by almost 40% as of the second quarter.
- As demand for dining out has increased since the start of the year, so have large party orders, which are up 32% quarter over quarter. Diners going out for special occasions such as birthdays, holidays and anniversaries are also up, according to Black Box Intelligence.
Despite the rise of coronavirus cases related to the delta variant and an increase in safety regulations, diners continued to go out last quarter, especially for special occasions. Mentions of celebrating these events were up three times compared to two years ago, with fine dining capturing the highest percentage of mentions related to special occasions, according to Black Box Intelligence.
While diners are going out and spending more, restaurant operators have also been increasing prices related to price inflation, which has been impacted by ongoing supply chain issues. According to a Black Box Intelligence survey, over 71% of operators hiked menu prices. Of that group, more than 36% said they boosted prices by less than 2% while over 20% of operators raised prices by 5% or higher. Increased pricing isn't driving down consumer spending, however. Restaurant spending rose 32% during Q2, according to The NPD Group.
But there could be trouble ahead. As ticket prices have increased, traffic industrywide has been softening and fine dining has experienced the biggest drop in sales growth through the week ending Aug. 8, according to Black Box Intelligence. Consumers appear to be increasingly concerned about rising rates of the delta variant, especially with off-premise seeing improved growth during the week ending Aug. 8 compared to the previous week and dine-in sales slipping.
While the industry faces another round of challenges related to coronavirus, some have been pushing back on restrictions, arguing that the restaurant segment is being unfairly targeted. A group of restaurants in New York City have already sued Mayor Bill de Blasio over his vaccine mandate in various indoor facilities, including restaurants. Others have been maintaining the operational changes they made during the peak of the pandemic last year. In Oregon, for example, many restaurants have kept their walk-up windows and outdoor dining operations in place.