Reductions in retail foot traffic may signal continued tough times ahead for restaurant chains, which are mainly dependent upon shopping mall exposure for gaining customer volume. Many large restaurant chains, including Cheesecake Factory, Red Robin, and Ruby Tuesday, have significant presence in retail shopping malls. These dining establishments are certain to experience continued weak sales figures as consumers restrain their discretionary spending.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, ShopperTrak RCT Corp. indicates that sales figures for restaurants declined over 12% for the month of October, in comparison to last year.

Although restaurant sales projections appear fairly grim, the food service sector is not nearly ready to give up the fight.

Many of our favorite eating establishments are coming at the challenge with tasty dining specials and interesting promotions. A wide array of restaurant offers are designed to stimulate immediate customer interest while creating a high probability of return customers.

The Wall Street Journal article states: "Cheesecake Factory, in October, gave customers coupons for items like a free slice of cheesecake or $10 off a meal for a return visit later in the year. California Pizza Kitchen is giving a $20 gift card good for meals next year for every $100 in gift cards that customers buy this holiday season." The article adds, " Red Robin has brought back its gingerbread shake for the holidays, and it's also selling gift cards at third-party retailers."

Now is the time for restaurants and retailers to join forces in breaking loose some tightly held consumer dollars. Everyone needs to eat. Retailers should be taking full advantage of that fact.

A quick and timely surge in spending on restaurant dining will help corporations in the food service sector to reap the benefits of temporarily deflated commodities prices, while keeping a lot of good people working. The restaurant industry pours huge amounts of money into our economy at every level. An increase in restaurant traffic could possibly give our economy a nice little kick in the pants.

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