by David Klemt

Traffic Up but Margins Thinner

by David Klemt

Chef checking tickets

The One Table 2022 report from Datassential focuses on the state of the operator and what the industry can expect moving forward.

This informative report shares survey results from 801 operators across America. While some of the findings are positive, it’s clear many operators are enduring significant challenges.

For some, traffic and sales are up. However, that’s not the situation others find themselves in.

To download and review the Datassential One Table 2022, please click here.

The Respondents

For this report, Datassential shares the survey answers from 801 respondents.

Most survey respondents are independent operators. In fact, they account for 71 percent of the participants. Making up the rest of the field are chain operators (15 percent) and franchise operators (14 percent).

As far as segment types, the majority of survey participants operate in the fast-casual space (18 percent). Unsurprisingly, fine dining is the smallest group of respondents at six percent. Thirteen percent operate midscale restaurants, and 12 percent are at the helm of casual-dining concepts. Somewhat surprisingly, just ten percent of participants operate QSRs.

Interestingly, the service format is fairly even among survey participants. Fifty-three percent of operators are full-service and 47 percent are limited-service.

Similarly, survey respondents represent the country’s regions pretty evenly:

  • South: 30 percent
  • Midwest: 29 percent
  • Northeast: 21 percent
  • West: 20 percent

In terms of market type, most respondents operate in the suburbs (49 percent). Following somewhat closely are urban-market operators, at 31 percent. Just 20 percent of survey participants operate in rural markets.

Traffic, Sales and Margins

At first glance, Datassential’s survey reveals positive news.

Now, I’m sure people find the terms “pandemic, “pre-pandemic,” and “post-pandemic” exhausting at this point. However, there’s no denying we continue to feel the aftershocks sent through the industry by the pandemic.

So, how do things look now in comparison to pre-pandemic traffic and sales levels?

First, the positives. Nearly half of survey respondents—47 percent—say their traffic is up in comparison to where it was pre-pandemic. Add to that the 14 percent who say their traffic is the same and 61 percent of operators appear to be in good shape.

In terms of sales, 51 percent of survey participants have good news. That news is that their sales are higher in comparison to pre-pandemic levels. Again, add the 14 percent who don’t see any change. So, that’s 65 percent of operators who appear to be performing well.

But with the good there’s bad. Unfortunately, 39 percent of respondents report lower traffic than pre-pandemic levels. And sales are lower than they were before the pandemic for 35 percent of survey participants.

Operator margins are lower for all respondents. Generally speaking, the profit margin for operators before the pandemic sat at 21 percent. Now, the average is 13 percent. QSRs and fast-casual restaurants are a bit higher among survey respondents: 17 percent and 15 percent, respectively.

On paper things do look up for many operators. However, the industry is still suffering, with a third struggling to rise to even pre-pandemic levels of traffic and sales.

Image: Daniel Bradley on Unsplash