Average Consumer Not Cutting Restaurant Costs

by: Geezeo

Consumers are spending their money wisely, or so you would think by reading all the recent financial reports, but February’s MSSI statistics highlight an interesting fact concerning how Geezeo users have been spending on a certain household staple: food.

The summary statistics across major grocery and restaurant retailers indicate that the average user is not cutting their dining out habit after all. MSSI data spanning over 50 restaurant chains shows that year-on-year spending increased 9.32%, $47.22 to $51.62, in February.

Compare this with the modest gain of 1% year-on-year at just slightly less grocery retailers and you may think that all this talk about consumer confidence, or lack thereof, is wrong; however, this is not necessarily the case.

click to enlarge

Since the end of 2008 the average Geezeo user is visiting the restaurants covered in the MSSI by 5.46%, which indicates that the rising prices of food may account for these increased spending levels, so the firms’ margins are not improving.

Monthly figures have also dropped precipitously from the end of 2008, but this is most likely due to an unobservable holiday effect present in the data, which stems from holiday festivities leading families to dine more expensively.

Gains at the grocery stores in the MSSI are far more stable, growing a larger 2.14% overall from February ’08. So far 2009 has had one month above the 2008 average-month and one month below, but February saw declines in sales in both years, so look for the next couple of months to follow the gains seen in 2008, with the average consumer still wary of spending their income frivolously.

Restaurant retailers numbers are much more up in the air, with fast-food retailers like McDonald’s (NYSE: MCD) reporting strong quarter results and others faring just the opposite; the smart money is on firms’ that do not have to fight too hard for their market share.

This data was compiled by the Geezeo Main Street Spending Index (MSSI).