Texas restaurant trading near pre-Covid norm

Just two weeks after re-opening, bars and restaurants in Texas were trading just 32% below their pre-Covid norm, and that’s despite capacity limits.

Texas is America’s second biggest state after Alaska, and second most populous after California

According to Nielsen CGA, the US state of Texas, which re-opened restaurants on 1 May with a 25% capacity limit for indoor dining, but none for outdoor seating, has seen a rapid bounce back in business.

The data analyst released data yesterday to show that restaurant takings in Texas – which is America’s second most populous State after California – were up in the seven-day period to May 9 and May 16, week on week, by 30% and 21% respectively.

This continued growth has resulted in trading now only being 32% lower than the norm, up from a 67% fall that occurred in March 28.

Restaurants in Texas were given permission to re-open 1 May at 25% capacity for indoor dining, although from today that will increase to 50%.

Bars in the state have remained closed until today, when they may re-open at 25% capacity.

Taking a US-wide snapshot, Nielsen CGA has recorded that sales across restaurants and bars in the US grew by 25% week-on-week between 9 May and 16 May as a number of major states reopened for business.

Latest data from Nielsen CGA show that while national sales are still 54% down on pre-Covid levels, the opening up of the out of home market in states such as Texas, Florida and Georgia has provided a fillip for the industry. When lockdown first hit, overall sales fell by 80%.

Results from the Nielsen CGA RestauranTrak dataset show that the improving national trend has been driven by states like Texas, where two weeks after reopening bars and restaurants sales are now only 32% below the pre-COVID norm, and have shown week-on-week of 29% up to May 9 and 21% up to May 16. 

In Texas, Houston has delivered the greatest week-on-week growth across the major cities, with Dallas broadly in line with the state average, and Austin underperforming.

Florida has also delivered substantial week-on-week growth over the last fortnight, up 29% and 30% in the weeks to May 9 and May 16, respectively, but has seen different trends in different cities.

While Tampa has outperformed the state average, in Miami where the out-of-home market is still heavily restricted growth has been more limited, while Orlando has performed somewhere between the two. Overall Florida is trading at 48% below normal levels.

In Georgia, week-on-week growth of 22% and 28% over the last two weeks mean that overall sales are now 46% down on pre-COVID norm. 

Even in New York, California and Illinois, where bars and restaurants remain closed, sales growth driven by take-out and delivery has continued to improve week-on-week as both the market and consumers continue to adapt to the new trading style. 

In New York State week-on-week sales grew by 13% to May 16 following a 3% rise in the previous week. Overall sales are down 70% on the norm, but have improved from being 85% down at the start of lockdown. The trends in California and Illinois are similar.

“The research from the States should provide some encouragement for UK operators waiting to reopen, in that it shows how business can pick up in a relatively short period of time,” said Phil Tate, global chief executive of CGA.

“Trading at around 50% of previous levels is a good start, but also shows work will be needed to maintain momentum and encourage people back out,” he added.

“It’s also worth remembering that even for restaurant, take-out and delivery sales are more developed and helped underpin business during lockdown and will remain an important part of the sales mix,” he concluded.

Below are some highlights from the Nielsen CGA RestauranTrak dataset for the weeks ending May 9 and May 16:

  • Total sales velocity (average dollar sales per the average outlet in our measurement) in Nielsen CGA U.S. measured on-premise outlets increased by +25% from May 9 to May 16.
  • Overall velocity now stands at -54% vs pre-COVID norm; that number is up from -80% when the COVID-forced lockdown began (and is now +204% vs. March 28).
  • The average number of transactions/purchases our measured outlets are handling has doubled since the end of March, and is now only -14% below the norm for outlets still operating.
  • As some states see restrictions ease, we see vast improvements in velocity trends.

    • In Texas this is clearly the case as velocity is now only -32% below the pre-COVID norm

      • Velocity has grown week-over-week by +29% (May 9) and +21% (May 16) over the last two weeks.
    • Florida has delivered substantial week-over-week growth over the last two weeks – velocity is up +30% from May 9 to May 16.

      • Differing trends are occurring across the region. Tampa trends outperform state level, yet in Miami where the on-premise is still heavily restricted, velocity grew but to a much lesser extent.
    • In Georgia, week-over-week growth of +22% and +28% over the last two weeks mean that velocity is now -46% vs the pre-COVID norm, a substantial improvement on trends at the start of lockdown.
  • In New York, California and Illinois, even as the on-premise space remains closed (for in-outlet dining/drinking), sales velocity continues to improve week-over-week, as both the market and consumers continue to adapt to the new trading style.

    • New York: sales velocity is +13% from May 9 to May 16
    • California: sales velocity is +13% from May 9 to May 16
    • Illinois: sales velocity is +24% from May 9 to May 16

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