Restaurant Performance Index Closes Out First Quarter at a Post-Recession High

Restaurant operators reported positive same-store sales for the tenth consecutive month; Operators' outlook for capital spending at its highest level in more than four years.

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The National Restaurant Association's Restaurant Performance Index reached 102.2 in March, up 0.3 percent from February. This was the fifth consecutive month that the RPI exceeded 100, signaling expansion in the index of key industry economic indicators.

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The RPI measures the health of the restaurant industry in relation to a steady-state level of 100. Index values of more than 100 indicate that key industry indicators are in a period of expansion while index values of less than 100 represent a period of contraction for key industry indicators. The index consists of two components – the Current Situation Index and the Expectations Index.

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The Current Situation Index, which measures current trends in same-store sales, traffic, labor and capital expenditures, stood at 102.0 in March – up 0.1 percent from February's level of 101.9.

Key factors from the March Current Situation Index include:

  • Sixty-five percent of restaurant operators reported a same-store sales gain between March 2011 and March 2012, up slightly from 63 percent who reported a sales gain in February.
  • Twenty-one percent of operators reported lower same-store sales in March, compared to 18 percent who reported similarly in February.
  • Fifty-five percent of restaurant operators reported higher customer traffic levels between March 2011 and March 2012, while 24 percent reported a traffic decline.
  • Forty-eight percent of operators said they made a capital expenditure for equipment, expansion or remodeling during the last three months.

The Expectations Index, which measures restaurant operators' six-month outlook for same-store sales, employees, capital expenditures and business conditions, stood at 102.4 in March – up 0.4 percent from February.

Key data points from the Expectations Index include:

  • Fifty-three percent of restaurant operators expect to have higher sales in six months compared to the same period in the previous year. Only 9 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.
  • Thirty-eight percent of restaurant operators expect economic conditions to improve in six months, up from 35 percent last month.
  • Twenty-seven percent of restaurant operators plan to increase staffing levels in six months compared to the same period in the previous year, while just 10 percent said they expect to reduce staffing levels in six months.
  • Fifty-six percent of restaurant operators plan to make a capital expenditure for equipment, expansion or remodeling in the next six months, up from 49 percent last month and the strongest level in more than four years.
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