Industry Update from RFDC
By Kevin Stockslager, Vice President, Wray Executive Search
At the Restaurant Finance and Development Conference (RFDC) in Las Vegas two weeks ago, a main topic of conversation was the industry’s performance in 2018 and the outlook for 2019. After a slow start to the year, the restaurant industry has rebounded as of late. October marked the fifth straight month of positive same store sales growth (0.8%) and the industry has recorded positive sales growth in seven of eight months this year. Two-year sales also grew in October for the first time in six months. Of course, traffic continued to decline, down 2.2% in October. The continued trend of declining traffic does not seem to be reversing anytime in the near future. However, a 3% increase in guest check (the highest increase in three years), contributed to strong sales numbers and there is reason for optimism heading into the holiday season.
The Restaurant Finance and Development Conference always provides an insightful panel of experts to discuss the financial outlook of the restaurant industry. At RFDC, several restaurant and financial industry experts weighed in on the state of the industry and trends for the coming year. Several experts presented on topics currently relevant to the restaurant industry, including the proliferation of technology and robotics, recent legislation allowing for the recreational use of cannabis, the evolution of consumer attitudes since the recession, the future of cryptocurrencies, and the implementation of delivery. Additionally, given the activity over the past few years, the topic of mergers and acquisitions was no surprise. Several panels focused attention on the next targets for massive conglomerates like JAB and Roark, the potential for a consolidation cycle within the industry, and emerging brands that could be a target for acquisition. The M&A activity certainly shows no signs of slowing down heading into 2019.
As usual, the conference provided a great outlook into the opportunities and challenges facing the restaurant industry in the coming years. The same store sales numbers over the past few months provide some optimism for the industry. While reversing the trend of declining guest traffic does not seem to be in the cards, increased guest checks have contributed to sales growth. With the economy continuing to expand and the holiday season approaching, industry leaders are hopeful of a strong close to 2018 and exciting start to 2019.
Kevin Stockslager | Vice President
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