As shown in the chart below, in Q3 the boost to the economy from Americans eating out amounted to 0.31%, just fractionally below the 0.36% print in Q2 which was the highest since the last quarter of 1999.
In fact, if one combines the data from the most recent two quarters, the contribution from eating at restaurants is the highest going back all the way to 1992.
And while recent hurricanes may have provided a modest boost to this number, one possible explanation for the recent jump is that Americans are spending their extra cash from tax cuts on dining out. In addition, major restaurant companies have recently hiked menu prices to keep up with higher minimum wages and rent costs.
Recent industry data show restaurant sales are growing while customer traffic declines, resulting in higher average checks, according to MillerPulse figures cited by Bloomberg Intelligence.
What is surprising is that just a few days ago, McDonald US same-store sales missed expectations as guest counts dropped amid a rise in menu prices and fierce competition from Restaurant Brand's Burger King, Wendys, Chick-fil-A and Yum Brands' KFC and Taco Bell.