The restaurant industry has been in a sorry state since traffic and same-store sales peaked in the first quarter of 2015. Both sales and traffic since then have been choppy at the best of times. 

But January data from TDn2K shows two consecutive months of two percent or higher sales growth even during some of the worst months for restaurants historically. 

“Winter months are tricky to report on due to the noise in the data coming from weather and the potential effect of holiday shifts,” said Victor Fernandez, vice president of insights and knowledge for TDn2K in a press release. “However, it is hard not to remain optimistic about the relative strength of restaurant performance, especially when looking at sales growth over a longer time period.” 

He said this comes after two years of consistent same-store sales declines. 

Knapp Track a, benchmark dedicated exclusively to casual dining, showed good growth as well at 2.2 percent sales growth with especially strong growth in Texas at 2.6 percent growth and a major comp boost among high-end steakhouses. Given the holidays and convenient timing for New Year’s Eve, the segment jumped by 6.6 percent. 

But now for the bad news. Staffing remains a big concern, given the rosy numbers. Operators are looking to staff up and not just try to keep up with turnover. According to TDn2K, restaurant jobs have risen by 2.4 percent year-over-year as of December. According to a survey done by the research firm, 59 percent of brands reported difficulties hiring managers and 68 percent had difficulty recruiting hourly workers. Turnover rates for managers and hourly employees remain at historic highs. 

As for traffic? Well, traffic is still bad. TDn2K reported a .7 percent decline, but with the Southeast as a bright spot at 4.4 percent traffic growth. Knapp Track reported flat traffic overall, with high-end steak as a bright spot with 3.5 percent traffic growth. 

Take a look at the wild ride since 2012, as seen in quarterly results from TDn2K:

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