Restaurant sales can be sign of the economic times
Posted December 27, 2011
Raleigh, N.C. — The tale of the tape is still being tallied for the 2011 holiday season, and with it the data on consumer sentiment about the economy.
Retailers cashed in with record Black Friday sales, then saw a few weeks of slump before last-minute shoppers again boosted store traffic.
For those with tight budgets, holiday shopping may force a choice to cut back in other areas.
"Right now sales are not up," said Sarig Agasi, owner of Zely and Ritz restaurant in Raleigh. "I wish they were, but there's too many unemployed."
Agasi said fewer companies hosted holiday parties at his restaurant this year. To keep people coming in, he offered a online coupon through Living Social and has a weekly special at a lower menu price.
To cut prices any further, Agasi said, he'd have to cut quality, something he's not willing to compromise in his farm-to-table restaurant.
He is hoping the arrival of 2012 brings stability to the economy and diners back to his tables.
"People need certainty. They need to go to work every day and know they are going to get a pay check," he said.
At Bella Monica in Raleigh, manager Trevor Chambers told a different story. He's already seen improvement. Customers aren't holding back as much this year as in the past when the economy was worse, Chambers said.
"They don't want to spend too much," he acknowledged, "But they don't mind, particularly this time of year, throwing a few extra dollars on the table to have a good time."
Overall, Bella Monica sales are up this year. Chambers credits consistent service and affordable prices. "Our service philosophy is white tablecloth in a casual setting, and I think it fits this market really well."
Wake County tax revenues show an additional 5 percent in prepared food and beverages tax revenue this year compared to 2010. The Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau reports that Wake County earned $17.6 million in prepared food and beverage tax revenue.