Who eats out more, metro Atlanta or the nation?

Metro Atlantans, you are loving yourselves some dining out.

Volume for restaurants sales was up 3.5 percent in the first quarter of 2016 over the same time last year, according to a survey released Friday.

Why is that a big deal? Because metro Atlanta over the past year has been adding new restaurants at a pretty good clip, says Bob Wagner, who surveys restaurants for his company NetFinancials. (New restaurants here and here as more dining establishments on the way ).

Linton's at Atlanta Botanical Garden.

Linton’s at Atlanta Botanical Garden.

And nationally, restaurants revenues in the first quarter declined 0.4 percent, according to Black Box Intelligence, a restaurant sales and traffic-tracking company.

“In Q2-Q4 2015 the Atlanta restaurant market struggled to absorb an unprecedented number of new, innovative restaurants offering fresh dining options to Atlanta consumers,” Wagner said.

“The Q1 2016 increase is more typical of the comp sales increases we saw in Atlanta prior to Q2 2015,” he said. “While it is too soon to declare that new-store absorption in Atlanta is complete, the broad-based sales improvement of Q1 2016 raises hope that much of the absorption has been achieved. We expect operators to see continued strong 2016 sales growth.”

Seventy-one percent of the 109 independent eateries surveyed reported positive sales gains in the quarter, which ended in March, Wagner said.

He attributed some of the growth to a decrease in Atlanta’s unemployment rate– down to 5.2 percent in March 2016 from 5.7 percent in March 2015 — and increasing numbers of city residents and business visitors.


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