Foodservice operators appeared more upbeat about sales growth and the state of the economy, even as they reported mixed same-store sales and traffic results in January, according to the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Performance Index.
The RPI, a monthly composite that tracks the health of and outlook for the restaurant industry, rose to 100.6 in January, a 1-percent increase over its December results and the highest level since August 2012.
It also marked the first time in four months that the RPI stood above 100, which the NRA says reflects expansion in the index of key industry indicators.
“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, the NRA’s senior vice president of the research and knowledge group.
“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,” he said.
The Restaurant Performance Index 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 restaurant operators’ six-month outlook for same-store sales, employees, capital expenditures and business conditions.
The Current Situation Index for January rose to 99.7, an increase of 0.6 percent over December’s level. Operators reported net positive same-store sales results in January, but disappointing customer traffic and labor indicators impacted the index, the NRA said.
Although total sales were positive in January, operators said customer traffic suffered a net decline for the second month in a row. According to the NRA, 44 percent of foodservice operators said same-store sales increased between January 2012 and January 2013, while 37 percent reported lower sales. For December, 42 percent of them said same-store sales increased, compared with 38 percent who reported a sales decline.
The NRA found 33 percent of restaurateurs posted higher customer traffic levels between January 2012 and January 2013, while 40 percent reported declines in traffic. In December, 31 percent of operators said customer traffic increased, while 48 percent reported lower traffic levels.
The RPI’s Expectations Index was101.6 in January, reflecting an increase of 1.3 percent over December. That marked the highest level for the index in eight months.
The NRA said the industry’s outlook continues to improve since late last year. Forty-six percent of operators anticipate that sales will be higher in six months — compared with the same period in the preceding year — up from 37 percent last month. Seventeen percent expect sales in six months will decrease.
Meanwhile, the NRA found that operators had a net positive outlook for the overall economy. Thirty percent of operators said they expect economic conditions to improve in six months, up from 17 percent in December.
The RPI is based on responses to the NRA’s monthly tracking survey.