Upbeat operators reporting positive same-store sales and customer traffic gains helped to fuel growth in the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Performance Index for February, keeping the index above 100 for the fourth consecutive month.
The RPI, a monthly composite that gauges the health of and outlook for the foodservice industry, rose 0.6 percent to 101.9 from 101.3 in January, the association said.
A number above 100 signifies that key industry metrics are expanding, while anything below that indicates contraction.
“Buoyed by continued gains in national employment and an extra day in February as a result of Leap Year, a solid majority of restaurant operators reported positive same-store sales and traffic results,” said Hudson Riehle, the NRA’s senior vice president of the Research and Knowledge Group. “In addition, restaurant operators are bullish about sales growth in the months ahead, while their outlook for the economy remains cautiously optimistic.”
Among the most positive indicators for February, Riehle said, was “the optimistic outlook for staffing levels in the months ahead. Only 7 percent of restaurant operators expect to reduce staffing levels in the next six months, the lowest level in nearly eight years.”
Hear more from Riehle; story continues below
The RPI comprises two components: the Current Situation Index, which gauges current trends in the same-store sales, traffic, labor and capital expenditures; and the Expectations Index, which measures restaurant operators’ six-month outlook for same-store sales, employees, capital expenditures and business conditions.
The Current Situation Index rose to 101.9 in February, up 1.3 percent from January’s 100.6. This was fourth time in the last four months that the Current Situation Index stood about 100.
The NRA said operators posted positive same-store sales for the ninth consecutive month in February, aided by an extra day for Leap Year. Some 63 percent of foodservice operators reported a same-store sales hike between February 2011 and February 2012, compared with 56 percent who reported a sales gain in January. Only 18 percent posted lower same-store sales in February, compared with 26 percent who reported likewise in January.
The Expectations Index was 102 in February, down just marginally from 102.1 in January. February was the sixth consecutive month the Index stood at about 100, reflecting optimism about future prospects.
About 53 percent of restaurant operators forecast that sales will be higher in six months, compared with the same period last year. Only 9 percent of operators said they expect sales volume in six months to be less than it was during the same period a year ago.
Operators in general are upbeat about the overall economy, the NRA said. Thirty-five percent said they expect economic conditions to improve in six months, down a bit from 37 percent last month. In comparison, 14 percent expect economic condition to deteriorate over the next six months, up slightly from 11 percent who reported similarly in January.
The RPI is based on the responses to the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Industry Tracking Survey.
Contact Paul Frumkin at firstname.lastname@example.org.