Slightly more optimistic operator expectations for the months ahead helped keep the National Restaurant Association Restaurant Performance Index in positive territory for September despite softer same-store sales and traffic during the month, the NRA said.
NRA officials said the RPI, a monthly composite that tracks the health of and outlook for the foodservice industry, stood at 100.4 in September, representing a decrease of 0.3 percent, in unrounded terms, from August.
September marked the 11th consecutive month the RPI was above 100, which the NRA said signifies expansion in the index of key industry indicators.
“Although restaurant operators reported softer same-store sales and customer traffic levels in September, they are somewhat more bullish about sales growth in the months ahead,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the NRA’s Research and Knowledge Group. “Forty-five percent of restaurant operators expect their sales to improve in the next six months, while only 11 percent expect weaker sales.”
The NRA’s RPI comprises 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 was 99.9 for September, which fell 0.7 percent from 100.6 in August, the NRA said. That August level had rebounded by 0.8 percent from 99.8 in July. The NRA said erosion in the Current Situation Index for September resulted from the softness in labor and customer traffic outweighing the positive aspects of same-store sales.
Forty-eight percent of restaurateurs reported a same-store sales gain between September 2011 and September 2012, falling from 61 percent in August, the NRA indicated. In comparison, 35 percent of operators reported lower same-store sales in September, rising from 25 percent in August.
The RPI’s Expectations Index stood at 100.9 in September, marking an improvement of 0.2 percent from August. The NRA said that while August marked the 13th consecutive month that the Expectations Index stood above 100, it remains below the stronger levels reached during the first half of this year.
Forty-five percent of the responding restaurant operators expect to have higher sales in six months, compared with the same period in the previous year, rising from 40 percent in August, according to the NRA. At the same time, 11 percent of operators said they expect lower sales volumes compared with the previous year, versus 12 percent in August.
The RPI is based on responses to the NRA’s monthly tracking survey.