Restaurant Industry Performance Hits 10-Month High

Forty-nine percent of operators made a capital expenditure for equipment and other items in the last three months. 

 The National Restaurant Association's Restaurant Performance Index (RPI) hit 101.4 in March, marking a 10-month high for the monthly composite index that tracks the health of and outlook for the U.S. restaurant industry. This represented a 0.9 percent increase from February's level of 100.5. In addition, the RPI remained above 100 for the 13th consecutive month, which signifies expansion in the index of key industry indicators.

"The solid March increase in the RPI was fueled by stronger sales and traffic levels, which bounced back from the weather-challenged results in recent months," said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the Research and Knowledge Group for the Association. "Looking forward, restaurant operators are increasingly optimistic about sales gains, and a majority plan to make capital expenditure in the next six months."

The Current Situation Index, which measures trends in four industry indicators (same-store sales, traffic, labor and capital expenditures), stood at 100.8 in March – up 1.5 percent from February's level of 99.3. Key data points from the Current Situation Index include:

  • Fifty-five percent of restaurant operators reported a same-store sales gain between March 2013 and March 2014, up from 44 percent who reported higher sales in February. In comparison, 32 percent of operators reported a decline in same-store sales in March, down from 37 percent in February.
  • Forty-six percent of restaurant operators reported higher customer traffic levels between March 2013 and March 2014, up from 35 percent who reported a traffic gain in February. Meanwhile, 33 percent of operators reported a decline in customer traffic in March, down from 43 percent in February.
  • Forty-nine percent of operators said they made a capital expenditure for equipment, expansion or remodeling during the last three months, up from 44 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 102.0 in March — up 0.3 percent from February. Key data points from the Expectations Index include:

  • Forty-nine percent of restaurant operators expect to have higher sales in six months (compared to the same period in the previous year), up from 40 percent last month and the highest level in nearly two years, according to the National Restaurant Association. In contrast, only 6 percent of restaurant operators expect their sales volume in 6 months to be lower than it was during the same period in the previous year, down from 11 percent last month.
  • Fifty-eight percent of restaurant operators plan to make a capital expenditure for equipment, expansion or remodeling in the next six months, matching the proportion who reported similarly last month.
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