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NRA: Restaurant Performance Index shows improvement

Increased same-store sales, traffic drive index above 100 points, indicating industry health

Stronger same-store sales and customer traffic helped propel the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Performance Index above 100 in September — the first time in three months, the NRA said.

The RPI, a monthly composite that tracks the health of and outlook for the foodservice industry, rose to 100.1 in September, up 0.7 percent from August and its highest level since June.

A number above the benchmark 100 reflects expansion in the key industry indicators.

“The September increase in the Restaurant Performance Index was fueled by improvements in the same-store sales and customer traffic indicators,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the Research and Knowledge Group for the NRA.

“Among the forward-looking indicators, restaurant operators are more optimistic about sales growth in the months ahead, while their outlook for the overall economy remains cloudy.”

See more about performance in September; story continues below

The RPI consists of 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.

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The Current Situation Index was 100.1 in September, an increase of 0.8 percent compared with August results and the first gain in three months.

Fifty percent of restaurateurs surveyed by the NRA reported a same-store sales increase between September 2010 and September 2011, up from 45 percent who reported a sales gain in August. Thirty-four percent of operators reported lower same-store sales in September, down from 37 percent who reported similarly a month earlier.

Read the full report

Operators also saw net positive customer traffic levels in September, the NRA said. Forty-three percent of restaurateurs saw higher customer traffic levels between September 2010 and September 2011, compared with 33 percent who reported a traffic decline. In comparison, 34 percent of operators in August reported higher traffic, compared with 42 percent of operators who reported a traffic decline.

The Expectations Index rose 0.7 percent to 100.2 in September, the strongest gain in nine months, the NRA said. September also was the first time in three months the Expectations component was above the 100 mark, signifying an more optimistic outlook among operators.

NRA research found that 37 percent of operators anticipate having higher sales in six months compared with the year-ago period. That is up from 33 percent in August, which represented the lowest level in 19 months. At the same time, 19 percent of restaurateurs said they expect that sales will be lower in six months, down from the 23 percent who had a similar outlook last month.

The RPI is based on the responses to the NRA’s monthly tracking survey.

Contact Paul Frumkin at [email protected].

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