Restaurant Performance Index Hits Five-Month High

Fifty-nine percent of restaurant operators plan to make a capital expenditure in the next six months, according to the survey.

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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 100.6 in January, up 1.0 percent from December and its highest level since August 2012. In addition, January represented the first time in 4 months that the RPI exceeded 100, which signifies expansion in the index of key industry indicators.

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"Although the current situation indicators were mixed in January, restaurant operators were decidedly more optimistic about sales growth and the economy in the months ahead," said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the Research and Knowledge Group for the Association. "Operators' outlook for same-store sales, capital spending and the overall economy all improved, which propelled the Expectations Index to its highest level in eight months."

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The Current Situation Index, which measures current trends in four industry indicators (same-store sales, traffic, labor and capital expenditures), stood at 99.7 in January — up 0.6 percent from December's level. Although restaurant operators reported net positive same-store sales results in January, softness in the customer traffic and labor indicators outweighed the performance, which resulted in a Current Situation Index reading below 100 for the fifth consecutive month.

Key data points from the Current Situation Index include:

  • orty-four percent of restaurant operators reported a same-store sales gain between January 2012 and January 2013, while 37 percent of operators reported lower sales. In December, 42 percent of operators reported higher same-store sales, while 38 percent reported a sales decline.
  • Thirty-three percent of restaurant operators reported higher customer traffic levels between January 2012 and January 2013, while 40 percent of operators said their traffic declined. In December, 31 percent of operators reported an increase in customer traffic, while 48 percent reported lower traffic levels.
  • Fifty-two percent of operators say they made a capital expenditure for equipment, expansion or remodeling during the last three months, up from 45 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 101.6 in January – up 1.3 percent from December's level.

Key data points from the Expectations Index include:

  • Forty-six percent of restaurant operators expect to have higher sales in six months (compared to the same period in the previous year), up from 37 percent last month and the highest level in seven months. Meanwhile, 17 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, essentially unchanged from 16 percent last month.
  • Thirty percent of restaurant operators said they expect economic conditions to improve in six months, up from just 17 percent last month. Meanwhile, 20 percent of operators said they expect economic conditions to worsen in the next six months, down from 29 percent who reported similarly last month.
  • Fifty-nine percent of restaurant operators plan to make a capital expenditure for equipment, expansion or remodeling in the next six months, up from 50 percent who reported similarly last month.
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