Following two months of disappointing declines, industry performance improved slightly in April as same-store sales returned to positive territory while guest traffic remained negative, according to the most recent Restaurant Industry Snapshot from Black Box Intelligence.

The monthly report is garnered from the tracking of 73 distinct restaurant brands and approximately 12,000 units that are clients of Black Box Intelligence, a financial performance benchmarking company. Black Box Intelligence is a sister company to People Report, currently tracking 1 million restaurant employees on workforce analytics. The Restaurant Industry Snapshot also includes the Restaurant Industry Willingness to Spend Index from Consumer Edge Research, which is a monthly household survey of over 2,500 consumers. Consumer Edge Research is a marketing partner with Black Box Intelligence and People Report.

The report found that industry same-store sales rose 1.3 percent in April and guest traffic was down 2.1 percent for the month. The report also found that sales for both food and alcohol were positive, and check average was 3.4 percent higher than the same month last year.

“Following a disappointing March, April results rebounded in every one of the 12 regions we track, and in all of the key metrics we report on,” said Wallace Doolin, chairman and founder of Black Box Intelligence. “We are pleased to report an improvement in March, but we aren’t yet seeing strong growth."

In March, less than 50 percent of the designated marketing areas Black Box reports on showed positive comp sales.

"Compare that to almost 75 percent reporting positive comp sales in April and you get a sense the industry is leveling off," Doolin said. "We do see some regions in California rebounding closer to January’s 12-month high in sales and traffic."

New England was the region that struggled most, declining 1.4 percent and 4.2 percent in sales and traffic, respectively. Doolin noted that this was an improvement of over 2.0 percent compared to March. Similar improvements were also seen in the Midwest and the Mid Atlantic during April.

After two straight months of decline, The Restaurant Industry Willingness to Spend Index was flat to the prior month, indicative of consumers concerns.

“The consumer remains concerned about the effects of high gas prices, under-employment and uncertainty in the government and the economy overall which continues to have an impact on restaurant spending. However the fact that the index is flat may mean a plateau until something stimulates confidence further," Doolin said.

Read more about restaurant industry trends and statistics.

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