During the first two weeks of October, the Ebola scare had a significant impact on traffic trends to restaurants and bars in the Dallas market, according to a report from Guest Metrics. As a baseline, during the month of September, on-premise traffic growth to Dallas restaurants and bars was generally flat compared to the prior year. However, during the first week of October, traffic declined to -2 percent, and during the second week of October, traffic growth fell even further to -5 percent.
In terms of the specific on-premise channels, Bars & Clubs, Fine Dining and Lodging were the most impacted by the Ebola scare. Traffic to Bars & Clubs (which has struggled for the majority of the year in Dallas) went from -6 percent in September to -11 percent during the first two weeks of October. Fine Dining traffic growth went from -4 percent in September to -9 percent during the first two weeks of October.
Lodging went from +4 percent in September to -7 percent during the first two weeks of October (likely a sign of business travelers canceling or postponing their trips to Dallas). The impact on traffic to Casual Dining and Fast Food/Fast Casual restaurants was a bit less pronounced. Traffic to Casual Dining restaurants grew +2 percent in September compared to the prior year, and actually held at +2 percent during the first week of October, but then fell to -2 percent during the second week of October. Traffic to Fast Food and Fast Casual restaurants softened slightly from the +1 percent growth in September to roughly flat during the first two weeks of October.
Of the various food and beverage categories in the on-premise channel, the alcohol categories were the most severely impacted by the Ebola scare in Dallas. Beer volumes fell from -4 percent in September to nearly -10 percent during the first two weeks of October. Wine volumes fell from -2 percent in September to -6 percent during the first two weeks of October. Spirits volumes fell from flat in September to -8 percent during the first two weeks of October. Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages were impacted much less severely. Non-Alcoholic Beverage volumes fell from -3 percent in September to -4 percent during the first two weeks of October, and the number of Food items consumed fell from +1.5 percent in September to -0.5 percent during the first two weeks of October.
However, it should be noted that during the week ending Oct. 19, the trends for the various on-premise channels and food and beverage categories had nearly fully recovered to their growth levels from September, suggesting the impact was relatively short-lived once it had become clear that a broader outbreak in the area was not imminent. Overall on-premise traffic was only down 0.8 percent in the week ending Oct. 19 but Lodging was the only channel that was still hurting; lodging was down 7.5 percent in that week vs. up 4 percent in September.