His index of casual dining performance shows an estimated 1.9 percent increase in comparable restaurants sales in October and a 0.2 percent increase in traffic. While the gas price drop has helped, it hasn't boosted spending to the same degree, as people have also worked at reducing debt, Knapp added.
Still, it's important to note that the improvements do not signify a return to normal traffic trends.
"The restaurant sector has been soft now for a few years and hasn't bounced back like a lot of retail sectors have," Reidhead said.
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For it to really improve, Reidhead thinks younger customers must participate more in the economic recovery.
"Honestly, I think for the restaurant and bar sector to really be thriving again, people in their 20s and 30s really need to be sharing in the economic recovery in a way they aren't today," he added.
While the unemployment rate fell to just 5.8 percent overall in October, it still stands at 10.5 percent for those aged 20 to 24 and 6.2 percent for people aged 25 to 34, two groups that are also likely to be saddled with student debt.
"What we're seeing is that fast food and bars are lagging behind so that I think it is disproportionately impacted by young people still being squeezed economically," Reidhead said.