Cheesecake Factory may be a warning sign for restaurants: A chilly, wet May hurt sales

Key Points
  • Cheesecake Factory might not be the only restaurant chain to blame the weather for weaker-than-expected same-store sales in the second quarter.
  • Baird analyst David Tarantino said same-store sales in May were softer than he initially reported earlier this month.
  • Despite the lower sales, Tarantino reiterated his second-quarter estimates.
A baker plates slices of cheesecake at a Cheesecake Factory restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky.
Luke Sharrett | Bloomberg | Getty Images

It looks like Cheesecake Factory isn't the only restaurant blaming the weather for soft same-store sales in the second quarter.

Baird analyst David Tarantino published a research note Tuesday backtracking on his initial outlook for the industry's same-store sales in the month of May, saying inclement weather became a headwind for restaurants in the back-half of the quarter.

"The final data set for May was not as positive as our initial read (published June 5; indicated comps could come in slightly above 1.5 percent), largely because of weaker-than-projected trends for a sizable chain that highlighted some weather issues in the Midwest region," he wrote.

Tarantino did not specify which chain had disclosed the weather issues, but told CNBC that it was not Cheesecake Factory. His survey includes insight from executives from 31 restaurants. The respondents were from private chains and franchised locations of publicly traded companies.

Cheesecake Factory's CEO David Overton said that in the East and Midwest, the company experienced "unfavorable weather" that reduced the chain's ability to use its outdoor patio space.

The company lowered its second quarter 2017 outlook and said that it expects same-store sales to be down about 1 percent. Shares of Cheesecake factory plummeted more than 9 percent on Tuesday.

Tarantino said that 24 percent of the chains he surveyed said that weather had a negative impact on performance in May.

"Most chains that cited a modestly unfavorable impact have greater exposure to the Midwest," he said. "Overall, national temperatures were lower year-over-year in three out of four weeks during the month."

Here's Tarantino's breakdown of the restaurant industry's segments in May.

Tarantino compared May results to that of the average between March and April to "neutralize the impact from Easter," which hurt April sales by about 1 percent, but helped March sales by the same amount.

"The lack of year-over-year improvement in May relative to the underlying levels seen in March-April is somewhat uninspiring when considering the industry is now cycling some of the headwinds that we think dampened demand during most of 2016 (including the combative election cycle and high inflation differentials versus the grocery channel)," he said.

Despite the weaker-than-expected overall sales in May, Tarantino reiterated his second quarter estimates. He said that June same-store sales are likely to be near 2 percent, leading the full-quarter's same-store sales to be about 1.5 percent.