Foodservice operators remained downbeat about the state of the economy as same-store sales and customer traffic declined in December, according to the National Restaurant Association’s monthly Restaurant Performance Index.
The RPI, a monthly composite that tracks the health of and outlook for the restaurant industry, slipped to 99.7 in December, a dip of 0.2 percent from November’s figure. December also marked the third consecutive month in which the RPI remained under 100, reflecting contraction in the index of key industry indicators.
“Although restaurant operators reported softer same-store sales and customer traffic levels in December they are cautiously optimistic about sales growth in the months ahead,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the Research and Knowledge Group for the Association. “However, operators remain decidedly pessimistic about the overall economy, with only 17 percent saying they expect business conditions to improve in the next six months.”
The NRA’s Restaurant Performance Index consists of two components — the Current Situation Index, which measures current trends in same-store sales, traffic, labor and capital expenditures; and the Expectations Index, which measures operators’ six-month outlook for same-store sales, employees, capital expenditures and business conditions.
The Current Situation Index slipped to 99.1 in December, a decline of 0.7 percent from November and its lowest level in almost two years, the NRA said. It was also the fourth consecutive month the index languished below the 100 mark, which reflects contraction in the key current situation indicators.
Forty-two percent of participating operators said same-store sales increased between December 2011 and December 2012, a figure that fell from the 55 percent who reported positive sales in November. Meanwhile, 38 percent of operators said same-store sales were lower in December, an increase from 30 percent in November.
In addition, 31 percent of foodservice operators reported higher customer traffic levels between December 2011 and December 2012, falling from 43 percent who reported positive traffic in November. Forty-eight percent of participants reported lower customer traffic levels in December, rising from 35 percent in November.
The Expectations Index, however, reflected more upward momentum. The index hit 100.3 in December, a slight increase of 0.3 percent over November figures. December was the first time in three months the Expectations Index crested above the 100 mark, reflecting a somewhat more upbeat attitude concerning future prospects.
According to the NRA, 37 percent of foodservice operators expect their sales will rise in six months compared with the same period in the previous year. That figure is flat with last month. However, 16 percent of operators anticipate sales in six months will be lower than they were during the same period in 2012. That figure marks a slight rise from the 14 percent reported in November.
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