Foodservice Industry Outlook Shows Improvement

For the fifth time in six months the NRA's RPI posted a score of more than 100, signaling expansion in this index of key foodservice industry indicators.

The National Restaurant Association's Restaurant Performance Index(RPI) – a monthly composite index that tracks the health of and outlook for the U.S. restaurant industry – stood at 100.7 in February, up 0.4 percent from its January level.

"Restaurant operators reported positive same-store sales and customer traffic results in February, after January's results were dampened by extreme weather conditions in many parts of the country," said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the NRA's Research and Knowledge Group. "In addition to improving sales and traffic indicators, restaurant operators' outlook for capital spending hit a 40-month high, while their expectations for staffing growth rose to the highest level in nearly four years."

The RPI consists of two components, the Current Situation Index and the Expectations Index. The Current Situation Index, which measures current trends in four industry indicators (same-store sales, traffic, labor and capital expenditures), stood at 99.4 in February – up 0.9 percent from its January level. However, the Current Situation Index remained at less than 100 for the fourth consecutive month, as the softness in the labor and capital expenditure indicators outweighed the gains in same-store sales and customer traffic.

Forty-nine percent of restaurant operators reported a same-store sales gain between February 2010 and February 2011, up from 39 percent of operators who reported higher same-store sales in January, according to the NRA. In comparison, 37 percent of operators reported a same-store sales decline in February, down from 44 percent of operators who reported lower sales in January.

Also, 41 percent of restaurant operators reported an increase in customer traffic between February 2010 and February 2011, up from 35 percent of operators who reported higher traffic in January, according to the NRA. In comparison, 39 percent of operators reported a traffic decline in February, down from 44 percent in January. Forty percent of operators said they made a capital expenditure for equipment, expansion or remodeling during the last three months, compared with 39 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 101.9 in February – up slightly from January's level of 101.8, according to the NRA. This is the seventh consecutive month the index recorded a score of more than 100.

Forty-eight percent of restaurant operators expect to have higher sales in six months (compared to the same period in the previous year), up slightly from 47 percent who reported similarly last month, according to the NRA. In comparison, just 12 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, down from 14 percent who reported similarly last month.

In addition, 52 percent of restaurant operators plan to make a capital expenditure for equipment, expansion or remodeling in the next six months, up from 48 percent who reported similarly last month, according to the NRA. And 26 percent of restaurant operators plan to increase staffing levels in six months (compared with the same period in the previous year), while just 10 percent said they expect to reduce staffing levels in six months.

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