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Operators maintain positive outlook on sales

NRA’s Restaurant Performance Index flat in April, but still in positive territory

Positive same store-sales and traffic levels in April helped keep the National Restaurant Association’s index of foodservice activity in expansion territory for the fifth consecutive month.

The NRA’s Restaurant Performance Index, a monthly composite that tracks the health of and outlook for the foodservice industry, stood at 100.9 in April, essentially flat compared with the March level of 101.0, the association said.

A result above the benchmark 100 signifies expansion in the key industry indicators.

“The restaurant industry continued to build momentum in April, with restaurant operators reporting positive same-store sales and customer traffic levels for the sixth time in the last eight months,” said Hudson Riehle, the NRA’s senior vice president of the research and knowledge group. “Barring any significant external shocks, restaurant sales and traffic levels will continue to improve in the months ahead.”

Watch a video of Riehle providing an industry update:

The Restaurant Performance Index consists of two components: the Current Situation Index, which measures 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 slightly to 100.3 in April, compared with the March level of 100.2. This marks the second consecutive month the Current Situation Index stood above 100.

Fifty percent of restaurant operators surveyed reported increases in same-store sales between April 2010 and April 2011, down from 52 percent of operators who reported higher same-store sales in March. Thirty-one percent of operators reported same-store sales declines in April, which was flat compared with March results.

The Expectations Index was 101.5 in April, a slight decline from 101.7 in March. Even with the decrease, the Index remained above the 100 level for the ninth consecutive month, which reflects expansion in the forward-looking indicators.

Operators appeared to be retaining their optimism about sales growth in the coming months. Forty-seven percent said they expect to have higher sales in six months, down slightly from 50 percent who reported likewise last month. Only 13 percent of restaurateurs anticipate that their sales volumes in six months will be below what they were in the same period a year ago. That figure is flat compared with results in March.

But while operators tend to be optimistic about sales, they remain wary about the general direction of the economy, the NRA said. Only 33 percent of operators anticipate that economic conditions will improve in six months, up from the 32 percent who reported likewise in March.

The RPI is based on responses to the NRA’s monthly tracking survey. The full report is available online at

Contact Paul Frumkin at [email protected].

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