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Comparing the job growth trends, implied by the BLS data released today, in limited service and casual dining suggests that the relative softness in casual dining trends is continuing.  

Knapp Track same-restaurant sales data track BLS employment growth data for the full-service restaurant industry.

Employment Data Confirming Bearish Casual Dining Stance - knapp versus full service employment growth

Employment growth by Age

Employment growth by age data continues to imply that quick service restaurants are benefiting from improving job growth in the younger age cohorts while casual dining struggles are being exacerbated by decelerating employment growth among some of that sector’s most important demographics.

The chart below illustrates continuing growth in the employment of 20-24 year old's while employment growth in the 35-44 YOA and 45-54 YOA cohorts declined in February, albeit at a lesser rate than in January. 

Employment Data Confirming Bearish Casual Dining Stance - Employment by Age

Industry Employment

If we assume that hiring within the restaurant industry serves as a proxy for operator confidence, it seems that QSR operators have a much different outlook than casual dining operators. 

The Leisure & Hospitality employment growth decelerated in February, suggesting that overall trends for the restaurant industry may be turning negative.   Quick service chains seems to be benefiting from casual dining’s malaise.

Employment Data Confirming Bearish Casual Dining Stance - restaurant employment growth

Howard Penney

Managing Director

Rory Green

Senior Analyst