CASUAL DINING – NOVEMBER WAS LESS BAD

Just as DRI’s same-store sales signaled a sequential improvement in November, the casual dining industry’s comparable sales were less bad in November and came in down 2.4% (down 6.0% in October). Traffic trends improved nearly 400 bps from October (150 bps better on a 2-year basis) to down 4.4%. For both DRI and the industry, November results were helped by a later Thanksgiving this year, but even excluding the benefit, trends looked better on a sequential basis. Even with the improved results in November, DRI management is still cautious on the remainder of the year. That being said, I don’t think November’s less than toxic numbers mean that the casual dining industry is out of the woods, but I do think that lower gas prices, a tick up in consumer confidence and Obama’s planned fiscal stimulus program will all work to provide some support to consumers going forward.