Polar Vortex Staying Home
NOAA models show that this year's US winter should be seasonal and milder. Together with fuel prices, these trends bode well for the restaurant business outlook.
The most recent Black Box Intelligence Restaurant Industry Snapshot plainly revealed the effects of last year's chilly, long and polar US winter.
To quote Victor Fernandez, Executive Director of Insights and Knowledge for TDn2K (parent company of Black Box Intelligence and People Report) “When warmer weather arrived in March the industry’s sales experienced a huge boost."
The good news, this year, is that US restaurants may not need to wait until March for a boost in traffic.
THE NOAA US WINTER OUTLOOK
The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting a warmer Winter where temps were coldest last season and a generally average Winter for the nation as a whole:
"Last year’s winter was exceptionally cold and snowy across most of the United States, east of the Rockies. A repeat of this extreme pattern is unlikely this year, although the Outlook does favor below-average temperatures in the south-central and southeastern states."
"In addition, the Temperature Outlook favors warmer-than-average temperatures in the Western U.S., extending from the west coast through most of the inter-mountain west and across the U.S.-Canadian border through New York and New England, as well as Alaska and Hawaii."
FUEL PRICES POISED TO HELP
Warmer weather doesn't only get people out of the house more often. The savings on home-heating are actual spending power in consumers pockets.
On this point, the Black Box Intelligence report showed almost 60% of US restaurant markets improved their sales in the April-July quarter, with the exception of the NY/NJ metro where traffic losses of -2.7% were the worst in the nation. This could represent the economic overhang of a long winter spent paying costly heating bills.
But the news is positive here as well. For example, current New York State home-heating oil prices are almost 20 cents lower (per-gallon) than a year ago.
If the more seasonal Winter of 2012-2013 is any guide, a shorter Winter should once again aid spending power. The 2012-2013 Winter saw heating oil prices break below $4 a gallon as of March 25th. Last Winter consumers didn't enjoy that respite until May 12th - a full 8 weeks later.