Restaurant sales fell to their lowest real level in over 35 years

Eating and drinking places registered sales of just $32.4 billion on a seasonally-adjusted basis in April, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Census Bureau. This was less than half – or $33 billion – of the $65.4 billion in sales that were rung up just two months earlier.

April’s eating and drinking place sales of $32.4 billion was the smallest volume since March 2005 – in nominal terms. However, adjusting for inflation, consumer spending at eating and drinking places in April plunged to its lowest level since October 1984.

In March, consumers spent only $46 billion in restaurants – or roughly $20 billion short of what would normally be expected. In total, sales at eating and drinking place establishments were off more than $52 billion in March and April – a number that will most likely rise when the final tallies are completed.

Add in the sharp reduction in spending at non-restaurant foodservice operations in the lodging, arts/entertainment/recreation, education, healthcare and retail sectors, and the total shortfall in restaurant and foodservice sales approached $80 billion during the last two months alone.

Track more economic indicators and read more analysis and commentary from the Association's chief economist Bruce Grindy.