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Restaurants saw robust sales, traffic in March

The National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Performance Index measured 102.2 in March, indicating expansion of industry indicators

Robust same-store sales and customer traffic helped drive the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Performance Index to a post-recession high, matching its performance in December 2011.

The RPI, a monthly composite that monitors the health of and outlook for the foodservice industry, climbed to 102.2 in March, a 0.3-percent rise over February’s 101.9.

This marks the fifth consecutive month the RPI has stood above the 100 mark, which indicates expansion in key foodservice industry indicators, the NRA said.

“The first quarter finished strong with a solid majority of restaurant operators reporting higher same-store sales and customer traffic levels in March,” said Hudson Riehle, the NRA’s senior vice president of the Research and Knowledge Group. “In addition, restaurant operators are solidly optimistic about sales growth and the economy in the months ahead, which propelled the Expectations component of the RPI to its highest level in 15 months.

“Bolstered by improving sales and traffic results, restaurant operators’ outlook for capital spending reached its highest level in more than four years,” Riehle said. “This will have positive implications throughout the supply chain of the restaurant industry.”

Hear more from Riehle; story continues below

The RPI 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 gauges restaurant operators’ six-month outlook for same-store sales, employees, capital expenditures and business conditions.

The Current Situation Index rose 0.1 percent over February results of 101.9 to 102.0 in March. This represents the fifth consecutive month the Current Situation Index was above 100.

Read the full report

Restaurateurs posted positive same-store sales for the tenth consecutive month in March, with sales results echoing those of February. According to the RPI, 65 percent of operators reported same-store sales gains in March, up a notch from the 63 percent who posted sales gains for the previous month.

By comparison, 21 percent said sales trended lower in March, compared with 18 percent of operators who reported likewise in February.

The NRA said the Expectations component rose to 102.4 in March, a hike of 0.4 percent over February results and the strongest level in 15 months. In addition, March marked the seventh consecutive month that the Expectations Index was above 100.

In March, 53 percent of restaurateurs said they anticipate sales will be higher in six months compared with the same period a year ago, on par with those who reported in February. In comparison, 9 percent of operators said they expect sales will be lower in six months than in the same period last year — once again on par from February.

The RPI, which is based on responses to the NRA’s Restaurant Industry Tracking Survey, gauges the health and outlook of the foodservice industry on a monthly basis through such indicators as traffic, labor and capital expenditures.

Contact Paul Frumkin at [email protected].

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