Those are the headlines from three recently released studies: the details - restaurant registers continue to ring and are on track for continuing positive performance as the year winds down. This, according to the National Restaurant Association's chief economist Bruce Grindy, who says the latest retail sales figures hit $46.3 billion in October, the strongest monthly volume on record. Based on preliminary census data, eating and drinking place sales totaled $46.3 billion in October on a seasonally-adjusted basis, up a full percentage point from September's sales volume of $45.9 billion. Sales exceeded by about $200 million the previous record high of $46.1 billion, totaled this past April.
Despite plenty of headwinds, the overall business environment for restaurants generally improved in October, reported Grindy. The most new jobs added in eight months, plus plunging gas prices, were seen as important contributors to the healthy restaurant activity.
The overall restaurant sales performance has been on a solid upturn during the latter half of the year after a disappointing first half, with October the fourth consecutive monthly gain in sales. Monthly volume grew more than $800 million during the four-month period.
Sales of flavored vodkas on-premise fell nearly 12 percent since last year, according to a survey by Restaurant Sciences LLC, an independent firm that tracks food and beverage product sales throughout the foodservice industry in North America. The firm says sales dropped 11.7 percent from the third quarter of 2012 to this past third quarter.
"Flavored vodkas’ on-premise spirits market share peaked at 8.7 percent in Q3 2012," said Chuck Ellis, president and CEO of Restaurant Sciences. "Since its peak, flavored vodkas have lost market share over the past 12 months to other flavored spirits, such as whiskey. A few select brands, such as Grey Goose Cherry Noir, up 11.6 percent, and Smirnoff Cranberry, up 19 percent, are still showing excellent growth."
Restaurant Sciences says they track more than 600 flavored vodka brands, with the Top 50 flavored vodkas accounting for 73 percent of sales. Among the larger brands, Absolut Citron, the flavored vodka category leader, saw a 1.8 percent year-over-year sales decline. While Grey Goose Cherry Noir grew, but all other Grey Goose flavors vodkas on-premise sales dropped between eight to 20 percent. Other category leaders, such as Stolichnaya and Three Olives, were down more than 20 percent.
Restaurant Sciences also released its annual Wine-By-the-Glass Price Study, revealing several shifts in wine-by-the-glass popularity in the first three quarters of 2013. For the first time, Pinot Noir surpassed Merlot in wine-by-the-glass sales, and while on-premise consumers still preferred Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon for red, blended wines increased market share for both whites and reds.
Other nuggets from their study: Moscato is now among the top five by-the-glass wines on-premise, and Malbec continues to be popular, while Zinfandel is down again.