WASHINGTON — For the first time on record, monthly sales at restaurants surpassed grocery store sales, according to the National Restaurant Association. Lower gas prices, higher household incomes and increased confidence are motivating consumers to dine out more frequently, said Bruce Grindy, chief economist for the N.R.A.
The gap between grocery store sales and restaurant sales began narrowing in 2010, as more consumers began purchasing groceries at alternative retail formats. December 2014 marked the first month on record that restaurant sales exceeded grocery store sales, and the trend has accelerated in the months since. In June 2014, grocery store sales exceeded restaurant sales by $1.6 billion, and in April 2015, restaurant sales surpassed grocery store sales by $1.5 billion.
Restaurants are most likely benefiting from lower gas prices, Mr. Grindy said. In a survey commissioned by the N.R.A. and conducted by ORC International of 1,008 adults between April 30 and May 3, 80% of car owners said the recent decline in gas prices had a positive impact on household finances, and 49% reported the fuel savings increased their willingness and ability to buy meals, snacks or beverages from restaurants, fast-food outlets and coffee shops. The figure skews higher for individuals in lower-income houses, Mr. Grindy said. Read more here.