Jerry Stiegler's Green Sheet comes to FE&S as a regular feature.

Sysco, the leading distributor to the industry reported their results for the quarter ending March 31. Given Sysco's size and penetration of the industry it is possible to consider them as a sort of index of foodservice performance. For their quarter ending March 31, Sysco announced that sales increased 7.6 percent over the same period in 2011. Sysco stated that recent acquisitions added 0.7 percent to sales for the quarter while currency exchange rates lost 0.2 percent. Sysco's internally calculated inflation rate was +5.5 percent. Assuming that all the price increases were passed through to Sysco's customers and also assuming the underlying math works, Sysco's real growth for the quarter was +1.6 percent. The company's net profit for the quarter was $259.5 million which was a slight increase over the same quarter last year.

The Economy This Week

One of the most closely watched indicators of the economy is the employment situation, and during the past week a number of studies and reports on the job picture were released. The first to report is ADP, the payroll services provider. The company monitors hiring by their customers though statisticians might question if ADP customers are a representative sample of the economy as a whole. Some observers also note that ADP's numbers are frequently at odds with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. When ADP reported that just 119,000 new jobs were created in April, several observers said not to worry. The government's reported increase would probably be considerably higher. But this month ADP's and the government's numbers were virtually the same. The Commerce Department reported Friday that the economy created 130,000 new private sector jobs with government jobs decreasing by 15,000, leaving a net increase of 115,000. Most economists believe that the United States needs to create 150,000 jobs a month just to keep up with population growth. Some labor experts feel that the exceptionally mild winter "stole" some new jobs and moved them into February and March. And, while it contradicts the numbers above, the Gallup Poll's Job Creation Index rose in April. So, you can pick the statistics you wish.

Continuing on the employment topic, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also reported that unemployment, which is measured in a different study than employment, fell from 8.2 percent in March to 8.1 percent in April. Unfortunately, the drop was entirely due to people who stopped looking for work. Probably the best employment news for the week was that for the week ending April 28 first time unemployment claims decreased by 27,000 to 365,000 compared to the previous in the week. The number of new claims, which had been dropping, began increasing in the past few weeks causing some alarm. Labor experts feel that claims in the range of 360,000 are normal.

The news from the U.S. manufacturing segment was good. The Institute for Supply Management's Manufacturing Index rose to 54.8 in April over the 53.4 Index in March. Most economists expected a decline. The April Index is the biggest growth in 10 months. Any number in excess of 50 shows expansion. The Chicago Federal Reserve's Production Manufacturing Index fell from a robust 62.2 in March to 56.2 in April, which was a 29 month low but still well in the expansion mode.

Other important figures:

  • The Institute for Supply Management's Non-manufacturing Index (i.e., service segment) fell from 58.9 in March to 54.6 in April. The serviced segment accounts for roughly 90 percent of the all the employment in the private sector.
  • Construction spending in April rose but just by 0.1 percent following a decline of 1.1 percent in March.
  • Personal Income rose by a higher than expected 0.4 percent in March while Personal Spending rose by 0.3 percent.
  • According to the Gallup Organization, small business owners' optimism has increased to the highest level since July 2008.
  • The United Nation's Food & Agricultural Organization reported their Food Price Index fell by three points in April but remains at relatively high levels.
  • Major retailers in the department, apparel and specialty areas reported rather disappointing results for April. While results on overall sales and same store sales varied widely, overall indices were below forecast. Some observers blamed an early Easter and warm weather for moving spring sales into earlier months. The Economic Census numbers will be available next week.

Foodservice This Week

Courtesy of Bank of America Merrill Lynch, we know that Malcolm Knapp's Knapp-Track found that comparable store sales for 60-plus casual dining chains representing 9,000 restaurants declined by 0.7 percent in March. Mr. Knapp "expects a quick return to a roughly plus 1 percent same-store sales run-rate going forward."

McDonald's April comp store sales came in at +3.3 percent, which was slightly under Wall Street's estimates. Wendy's first quarter comp store sales were +0.8 percent. Burger King's first quarter comp store sales were +6.0 percent.

Manitowoc stated that their sales of foodservice equipment increased 3.8 percent in the company's last fiscal quarter due to "new products and continued penetration in certain end markets and geographies."

Standex announced that their foodservice sales increased 5.6 percent in its last quarter as a result of "strong demand at quick service and national chains."

Smashburger has opened their first Canadian unit (in Calgary) with a second to follow in June. Baskin Robins plans on adding 80 stores in the UK. Hardee's announced they will be building up to 88 units in the Tampa area.

This being "earning report season" there are a bunch of chains providing comparable store sales data:

  • Applebee's is up 1.2%
  • Baskin Robins is up 9.4%
  • Caribou Coffee is up 2.5%
  • Cheesecake Factory is up 2.6%
  • Denny's is up 2.4%
  • Domino's is up 2.0%
  • Dunkin' Donuts is up 7.2%
  • Einstein Noah Restaurant Group is up 1.1%
  • Famous Dave's is down 1.6%
  • IHOP is down 0.5%
  • J. Alexander's is up 4.5%
  • Kona Grill is up 8.7%
  • Mitchell's Fish Market is flat
  • P.F. Chang's is down 0.6%
  • Papa John's is up 1.1%
  • Pei Wei is down 1.7%
  • Starbuck's is up 8.0%
  • Texas Roadhouse is up 6.0%

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