Winter weather hurts restaurant sales in Jan.

NRA performance index slips slightly, but outlook remains positive

Operators remained positive about their businesses in January despite severe weather that buffeted restaurant traffic in many parts of the country, according to National Restaurant Associations latest Restaurant Performance Index.

The RPI, a monthly composite index that tracks the health of and outlook for the foodservice industry, slipped to 100.2 in January, down 0.8 percent from December. Despite the decline, January marked the fourth time in the last five months that the RPI stood above 100, which the NRA said reflects expansion in the index of key industry indicators.

“The RPI’s January decline was due in large to part to dampened sales and traffic levels as a result of extreme weather in some parts of the country,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the National Restaurant Association’s research and knowledge group. “Although restaurant operators reported softer same-store sales and customer traffic results in January, their outlook for sales growth and the economy remained optimistic.”

Watch Riehle’s analysis of the January results:

The Restaurant Performance Index has 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 restaurant operators’ six-month outlook in the same areas.

The Current Situation Index stood at 98.6 in January, down 1.1 percent from December. The Current Situation Index remained below 100 for the third consecutive month, which the NRA said signified contraction in the current situation indicators.

Extreme winter weather in some parts of the country hurt sales in January, NRA research found. About 44 percent of restaurant operators reported a same-store sales decline in January, up from 35 percent of operators who reported lower sales in December. About 39 percent of operators reported a same-store sales gain between January 2010 and January 2011, down from 48 percent of operators who reported higher same-store sales in December.

The Expectations Index for January stood at 101.8, down 0.5 percent from December’s 45-month high of 102.4. Despite the decline, the Expectations Index stood above 100 for the sixth consecutive month, which indicates expansion in the forward-looking indicators.

About 47 percent of restaurant operators expected to have higher sales in six months, compared to the same period in the previous year, down from 55 percent who reported similarly in December. About 14 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, up from 8 percent who reported similarly last month.

The RPI is based on the NRA’s monthly tracking survey. The full report is available at: http://www.restaurant.org/pdfs/research/index/201101.pdf.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]