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.

NOW WATCH: 14 things you didn’t know about Whole Foods

NOW WATCH: Money & Markets videos

Want to read a more in-depth view on the trends influencing Australian business and the global economy? BI / Research is designed to help executives and industry leaders understand the major challenges and opportunities for industry, technology, strategy and the economy in the future. Sign up for free at research.businessinsider.com.au.