Datassential’s State of the Operator 2022
by David Klemt
The latest addition to the Datassential FoodBytes research series shares insights into the top three challenges most—if not all—operators are facing.
Now, some of what the report reveals paints a bleak picture. Inflation, the labor shortage, and supply chain issues persist even past the midway point of 2022.
However, operators are a tenacious and innovative group of business owners. Of course, that tenacity seems to manifest in people thinking this industry can weather any storm. That perception can come at operators’ detriment. Exhibit A: The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 not including replenishing of the RRF. But, I digress.
“The State of the Operator & the Road Ahead,” which you can download here, is helpful and informative. As you may be aware, we’re fans of Datassential and their FoodBytes reports. In fact, you can find our synopses of FoodBytes reports here and here.
Below are some key points that operators should be aware for consideration. I strongly urge you to download this free report today.
First, let’s take a look at traffic. As Datassential points out, some hospitality business segments are performing better than others currently.
In large part, this is due to two factors: People working from home, and people returning to travel. So, operators who rely heavily on commuters and in-person workers are struggling. On the other hand, operators inside or around hotels are, per Datassential, performing the strongest at the moment.
Interestingly, though, nearly half of operators (47 percent) are seeing an increase in traffic in comparison to pre-Covid levels. Fourteen percent of operators are reporting no change in traffic. Unfortunately, traffic is lower for 39 percent of operators.
Next, sales. In comparison to pre-Covid times, more than half (51 percent) of operators report an increase. Again, 14 percent of operators are experiencing no change. But 35 percent of operators are experiencing a decrease in sales.
Finally, profit margins. Half of operators may be seeing increases in traffic in sales, but profit margins are taking a hit. On average, the industry’s profit margin is now hovering at 13 percent. That’s an eight-percent drop in comparison to pre-Covid levels.
The findings regarding profit margins are likely to be the most alarming to operators. Historically, our industry has operated on razor-thin margins for decades. Dropping from an average of 21 percent to 13 is concerning.
However, context is important. The segments seeing the lowest profit margins in 2022 are: Business & Industry (B&I), Healthcare, and Colleges & Universities (C&U). Again, remote work (and learning) are largely responsible for those particular segments watching their profit margins tumble.
The strongest performers are: Quick-Service Restaurants (QSR) at 17 percent; Fast Casual at 15 percent); and Midscale, Casual Dining, and Fine Dining, each at 13 percent. Lodging is just below the current average at 12 percent.
Inflation, rising food costs, supply chain issues, labor shortages… Operators are finding ways to cope, and in some situation, thrive.
Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of operators are increasing menu prices. In the past 12 months, 77 percent of operators have raised menu prices at least once.
These increases range from one percent a staggering 30 percent. However, the majority have kept these increases to one to ten percent. Most (31 percent) have implemented increases of no more than five percent. Just one percent of operators boosted prices between 25 to 30 percent.
Of course, raising prices isn’t the only strategy operators have at their disposal. Forty percent of operators are streamlining their menu, reducing the sizes of their menus. However, it’s wise for operators to review their menus at least every three months to eliminate poor performers.
Other strategies include focusing on value for guests (27 percent); utilizing LTOs and launching new menu items (26 percent); eliminating a specific daypart or portion of the menu (25 percent); and making portion sizes small, or “shrinkflation” (18 percent).
There’s much more revealed in Datassential’s latest FoodBytes report. Download your copy today.