This chart about spending in restaurants is unbelievable ... because it has a major problem

Restaurant spending continues to overpower spending at grocery stores.

The chart below shows that total spending at restaurants and bars — “food and drinking places” — topped spending at grocery stores in April for the third straight month.

This is a huge deal and a sign of changes among consumer habits.

But it doesn’t quite show what you think.

That’s because major grocery retailers like Wal-Mart, Costco, and Target aren’t considered grocery stores, as Jonathan Maze at the Nation’s Restaurant News noted back in March.

Maze also points out that more than half of Wal-Mart’s $US485 billion in annual sales come from grocery, and says a grocery number from Wal-Mart alone would probably put it over the top.

And even at that, the beat from restaurants was only slight: in April, sales at restaurants and bars totaled $US51.82 billion while grocery was $US48.63 billion.

Overall, retail sales in April were a big disappointment. Sales in April were flat compared to March, missing expectations and leading some market observers to say that we’re heading for a recession.

Even with the catch of how some of this data is compiled, however, it doesn’t mean that the trend towards restaurants and away from grocers isn’t a huge deal: the habits of American consumers are obviously changing. And in a big way.

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