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The Anchor Recap: August 2023

by 
Ezra Carmel
 on 
September 11, 2023
The Anchor Recap: August 2023

This blog explores some of the past month’s dining and grocery insights from Placer.ai’s executive intelligence report – The Anchor – published weekly by the Placer.ai Analytical Research team. To view full articles from The Anchor or sign up to receive the report before it goes online, visit anchor.placer.ai

Restaurant Roundup: Spotlight on Q2 2023's Most Noteworthy QSR Developments

The limited services restaurant category – which includes QSR, fast casual, and coffee/snack chains – continues to outpace the wider dining sector thanks to consumers’ ongoing value orientation. Between January and July 2023, year-over-year (YoY) visit growth for the limited-service restaurant sector remained positive and ahead of the full-service dining segments. 

Still, there has been some deceleration in visitation trends in recent months across all dining categories, perhaps due to lower-income consumers trading down to value grocery, dollar stores, and convenience stores. Recent extreme temperatures have also likely impacted some markets.

Zooming out on the restaurant industry since 2017 reveals that limited-service restaurants – QSR, fast casual, and specialty coffee chains – now command a larger share of total dining visits. Pre-pandemic, limited-service accounted for about 65% of dining foot traffic, while visits to full-service restaurants – including casual dining and fine dining chains – made up approximately 35%. With many full-service restaurants permanently closing locations during the pandemic, limited-service restaurants now represent close to 70% of total dining visits compared to around 30% for full-service chains. Although this shift is relatively small, it is significant given the size of the restaurant industry. 

In addition to consolidation in the full-service category, the growth of the limited-service category reflects changing consumer preferences. Full-service restaurants are now emulating many of the elements that have made QSR chains successful coming out of the pandemic, including mobile ordering, in-restaurant takeout preparation areas, pickup windows, and the use of virtual/ghost kitchens.

Another noteworthy QSR trend from Q2 2023 is the increased visitation during the late night daypart. In general, QSR chains tend to have greater late night visits during the summer months, but a number of chains are also spending more on their late-night advertising, expanding hours of operation, and partnering with delivery services, which could account for late night visit growth.  

Aldi: Winn-Dixie and Harveys Acquisitions Intensifies Competition in Southeast Battleground States

Aldi's acquisition of 400 Winn-Dixie and Harveys locations in the Southeast supports the chain's goal of 120 new stores and 2,400 total U.S. locations by the end of 2023. The move comes at a time when consumers are being pinched by high packaged food prices and are willing to try retailer brands that offer extreme value – something that Aldi is known for.

Comparison of recent visitation trends for Aldi, Harveys, Winn-Dixie, and other competing grocery banners reveals that consumers remain fixated on price. YoY visits to value-oriented grocers like Aldi and Trader Joe’s continue to outperform conventional grocery banners like Kroger and Albertsons. At the same time, Kroger and Albertsons banners accounted for more than half of total visits to the chains analyzed in July 2023 – a sign that these brands maintain their dominance in the space. 

Winn-Dixie’s and Harveys’ visitation trendlines imply that there is a natural base of visitors that Aldi can build on as it evaluates rebranding stores and making merchandise assortment adjustments. For context, Harveys has shed roughly half of its footprint since 2019 – from almost 50 units to 25 today – perhaps indicating that it has already shed a number of its underperforming locations.

Grocery Outlet: Consumers Continue to Seek Out Disruptive Value

Value and thriftiness continue to be top-of-mind for households, leading off-price, secondhand, and thrift retailers outperformed in Q2 2023 traffic, sales, earnings, and stock prices, etc. This consumer trend is perhaps best exemplified by Grocery Outlet’s 9.2% comp-store sales increase. In Q2 2023, visitors to the chain were up a massive 13.8% YoY and visits were up 17.6% – significant market share gains of households and household spend. 

For consumers, value doesn’t necessarily mean “cheap” – it’s more about what one gets compared to what one pays. And so, over the past few weeks we saw that consumers valued differentiated and excellent product – be that Barbenheimer (where our data shows that over 30% of theatergoers saw more than one film, being Barbie, Oppenheimer, Mission Impossible, Meg, or other), or a Taylor Swift show.

For more Anchor stories and to register for email-exclusive content, visit anchor.placer.ai.

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