Fast food restaurants get boost from poor economy

Jack in the Box

Fast food restaurants are among the few winners in the race against recession woes that many higher priced eateries are losing.

John Barney, president of Crown Point-based Barney Enterprises, said as the economy has plummeted, fast food restaurants have seen rising sales. He said sales at his four Northwest Indiana Wendy’s restaurants were up 4.5 percent during 2008. Chicago area Wendy’s stores all saw increased sales, he said.

McDonalds saw its U.S. sales increase 5 percent in 2008 compared to the previous year, the Oak Brook, Ill.-based company reported last week. And Burger King saw it revenues for the second quarter of fiscal 2009 increase 3 percent compared to $613 million in the comparable period of fiscal 2008, that company reported.

Higher sales for the fast food sector during a recession are an anomaly, Barney said.

“This is an unusual situation,” he said Friday. “In my 40 years in the business, every time we’re in a recession in the past, we’d see a downturn in our sales.”

Lower gasoline prices also are contributing to higher sales, Barney said.

“I think the fact the fuel prices are less and we’re seeing traffic come back to what it use to be is a factor,” Barney said. “There’s a relationship between our sales and traffic counts.”

As fast food restaurants enjoy better sales, casual and fine dining restaurants are trying to woo back customers with special discount menus, coupons and other promotions. For example, Denny’s offered a free breakfast to all comers Feb. 3.

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