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Trends improved from September on a 1-year basis but continued to decelerate on a 2-year average basis.

Malcolm Knapp reported that October casual dining same-store sales declined 4.9% with traffic down 4.4%.  Given what we learned from a handful of casual dining restaurant operators about trends in October, it is not surprising that October trends improved sequentially from September levels on a 1-year basis when comparable sales declined 6.4% and guest counts came in -5.3%.  Specifically, PFCB, TXRH, BWLD and MSSR all stated that they experienced sequentially better sales trends in October. 

If you look at 2-year average trends, however, the October numbers do not provide any reason to be optimistic as both same-store sales and traffic trends continued to decelerate from September.  Demand in October was not as bad as last December when trends bottomed, but on a 2-year average basis we not that far from it with the October comparable sales 2-year trend down 5.5% relative to -6.7% in December 2008. 

We will have to wait and see how restaurant trends have fared in November and for the remainder of the quarter, but I am not optimistic that we will see a much of a recovery from these levels.  Easy comparisons are meaningless and restaurant demand will not pick up until people stop losing their jobs.  For reference, Malcolm Knapp’s reported November numbers will look extremely weak on a YOY basis as last year’s result was helped by a later Thanksgiving.