This week we explore some early numbers from the 2012 U.S. Economic Census, report on the latest employment data including foodservice hiring, look at how the National Restaurant Association won a battle in the U.S. House of Representatives but may not win the war, reveal the number one chicken chain and a whole lot more.

Every five years the U.S. Census Bureau conducts an Economic Census and is starting to release the data from the 2012 study. The Bureau will continue to release economic data for the period spanning 2007 to 2012 for the remainder of this year and into next year. Given the research’s broad base, a number of research organizations use the data as a benchmark number.

The initial report finds in the 5 years between the studies that the number of bars and restaurants grew to 596,866, an increase of 4.4 percent. Dollar sales in 2012 were $514 billion, an 18.6 percent increase over 2007. Sales per facility were $861,491 in 2012. While this represents a 13.6 percent increase from 2007 it also shows the industry still has a large number of small businesses.

The number of restaurant and bar employees grew 4.6 percent to over 10 million. The total payroll in 2012 was $146.4 billion which, interestingly, was a 17.7 percent increase over 2007.  Thus, the rate of payroll growth increased almost 4 times faster than the number of employees and/ the rate of sales increase. Average pay was $14,538 in 2012 representing an increase of 12.5 percent.

As the Bureau releases more restaurant industry data we will continue to report and analyze it in future blog posts.

Economic News This Week

  • Initial jobless claims hit 326,000, an increase of 16,000 for the week ending March 29. This was a 4-week high for first time claims. The 4-week moving average of claims barely changed at 319,500.
  • Payroll processing firm ADP’s National Employment Report projects the private sector created 191,000 new jobs in March. Small companies, meaning those with less than 50 employees, accounted for 72,000 of the new hires; medium companies, those with 50 to 499 employees, hired 52,000 new people; and large firms, those with more than 500 employees, filled 67,000 new jobs. The service sector was responsible for 164,000 or 86 percent of the new jobs.
  • The U.S Department of Labor’s jobs numbers recorded an unusual event.The Bureau of Labor Statistics calculated that the economy created 192,000 jobs in March, virtually identical to ADP’s projection. (See previous item.) The two sources frequently report widely different numbers. Moreover, the BLS reported the 192,000 jobs came exclusively from the private sector, meaning the government did not add any jobs. The Bureau also said the number of long-term unemployed, individuals working part time for economic reasons and those who want to work but have not looked for work in the past four weeks, stayed about the same. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 6.7 percent. The U.S. has now replaced all of the 8.8 million jobs lost during the recession but employment has not kept pace with the number of people entering the workplace. Both the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Gallup Organization show the long run trend on participation in the labor force is down.
  • Once again, foodservice is a leader when it comes to new job creation. The U.S. Labor Department’s March stats show the foodservice industry created 30,400 new jobs in March. This represents more than 15 percent of all the new jobs added that month.
  • The Institute for Supply Management’s Report on Business, which measures activity in the manufacturing segment, rose 0.5 percent in March to a tepid 53.7 percent. Any number in excess of 50 indicates expansion. New orders and production were up while the employment index was down.
  • Factory orders climbed 1.6 percent in February, after falling by 1 percent in January. The transportation segment increased by 7 percent. Without transportation, new orders for manufactured goods were increased 0.7 percent.
  • The Institute for Supply Management’s Non-Manufacturing Index increased 1.5 percent in March compared to February. New orders grew by 2.1 percent and employment, which had sunk below the critical 50 level in February, came back strong posting a 6.1 point increase for a total of 53.6. The ISM reported 13 of the 18 segments surveyed increased their business activity in March.
  • Construction spending crept up 0.1 percentin February, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. The February figure is 8.7 percent greater than the February 2013 total. Residential construction was down 0.8 percent over January.
  • March automobile sales were stronger than expected, even though Honda, Hyundai, and Volkswagen reported declines. Fiat Chrysler sales were up for the month, with Jeep having its best sales month ever. Several news reports indicated sales picked up significantly the last two weeks of the month.
  • Consumer confidence held steady in March, according to the Gallup Organization’s U.S. Economic Confidence Index, which averaged negative 17 last month after averaging negative 16 in January and February.

Foodservice News This Week

  • The U.S. House of Representatives changed the definition of full-time work to 40 hours for the purpose of the Affordable Care Act. Among those organizations lobbying for the change was the National Restaurant Association, which said defining full-time employment as 30 hours would result in many restaurant employees having their hours cut. Some observers feel that odds are not good that the U.S. Senate will go along with the change.
  • And the United States’ number one chicken chain is…Chick-fil-A. Technomic’s Top 500 Chains study reports Chick-fil-A had U.S. sales of $5 billion last year vs. $4.22 billion for KFC. Bloomberg Businessweek points out that while KFC has 2.5 times more units than Chick-fil-A, the latter averages $3.2 million in sales per location compared to the former’s average of $938,000 per location. Kind of makes one wonder what Chick-fil-A would do if it was open on Sunday.
  • McDonald’s closed its three restaurants in Crimea. A McDonald’s spokeswoman said the closing was due “to operational reasons beyond our control” and characterized the closings as temporary. One politician in Moscow called for all of McDonald’s 200 Russian locations to be shut down in retaliation for sanctions levied by the U.S. and its allies against Russia for the annexation of Crimea by Russia.
  • In-store sales at convenience stores increased 2.4 percent in 2013 to $204 billion. Much of the increase was due to a 2.4 percent increase in foodservice sales.
  • Corporate Stirrings: Good Times Burgers is converting one group of preferred stock into common shares. GrubHub, the online takeout food ordering company, raised a higher than expected $193 million in its Friday initial public offering. GrubHub stock was priced at $26 a share but closed at $34. Darden’s decision to change the company’s bylaws to delay the annual meeting drew fire from an investor group that has been highly critical of the company’s management including its decision to sell the Red Lobster chain.
  • Growth Chains: Johnny Rockets plans on opening 100 stores in the U.S. plus another 60 outside the country by 2017. TGI Fridays will open 34 restaurants this year and remodel 38 more. Captain D’s has signed an agreement with a franchisee for six units in Mississippi and other southern states. Cup Pasta will open 2 new stores this year and hopes to open a total of 30 stores in the next 5 years. Dunkin’ Donuts will open 3 new restaurants in Colorado Springs by 2017.
  • Comparable Store Sales Reports: BJ’s Restaurants (down 2.7 percent), Frisch’s (down 3.6 percent), and Granite City Restaurants (up 0.6 percent)

For details and same store sales of other chains, please click here for the Green Sheet.