RPI Falls Below 100 as Sales and Traffic Decline

Operators remain optimistic about growth and economy.

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The National Restaurant Association's Restaurant Performance Index (RPI) checked in at 99.9 in February, down 0.8 from January. February represented the fourth time in the last five months that the RPI stood below 100, which signifies contraction in the index of key industry indicators.

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"The Restaurant Performance Index decline was due largely to softer sales and traffic results, which fell in February amid higher gas prices and the impact of the payroll tax hike," said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the Research and Knowledge Group for the Association. "In addition, sales and traffic comparisons were more difficult due to the extra day in February 2012 as a result of Leap Year."

The Current Situation Index, which measures current trends in four industry indicators (same-store sales, traffic, labor and capital expenditures), stood at 98.3 in February — down 1.4 percent from January's level. In addition, the Current Situation Index was less than 100 for the 6th consecutive month, which signifies contraction in the current situation indicators.

Key data points from the Current Situation Index include:

  • Thirty-three percent of restaurant operators reported a same-store sales gain between February 2012 and February 2013, while 48 percent of operators reported lower sales. In January, 44 percent of operators reported higher same-store sales, while 37 percent reported a sales decline.
  • Twenty-four percent of restaurant operators reported higher customer traffic levels between February 2012 and February 2013, while 53 percent of operators said their traffic declined. In January, 33 percent of operators reported an increase in customer traffic, while 40 percent reported lower traffic levels.
  • Forty-eight percent of operators said they made a capital expenditure for equipment, expansion or remodeling during the last three months, down from 52 percent who reported similarly last month.

The Expectations Index, which measures restaurant operators' six-month outlook for four industry indicators (same-store sales, employees, capital expenditures and business conditions), stood at 101.4 in February – down slightly from January's level of 101.6. Each of the four expectations indicators stood above 100 for the second consecutive month, which suggests restaurant operators remain generally optimistic about business conditions in the months ahead.

Key date points from the Expectations Index include:

  • Forty-one percent of restaurant operators expect to have higher sales in 6 months (compared to the same period in the previous year), down from 46 percent last month. Meanwhile, 14 percent of restaurant operators expect their sales volume in six months to be lower than it was during the same period in the previous year, compared to 17 percent last month.
  • Twenty-five percent of restaurant operators said they expect economic conditions to improve in six months, down from 30 percent who reported similarly last month. Meanwhile, 20 percent of operators said they expect economic conditions to worsen in the next six months, unchanged from last month.
  • Fifty-seven percent of restaurant operators plan to make a capital expenditure for equipment, expansion or remodeling in the next 6 months, down slightly from 59 percent who reported similarly last month.
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