WASHINGTON - Driven by solid same-store sales and traffic results and an increasingly bullish outlook among restaurant operators, the National Restaurant Association€™s Restaurant Performance Index (RPI) matched its post-recession high in March.
The RPI stood at 102.2 in March, up 0.3% from February and equaling its post-recession high that was previously reached in December 2011. In addition, the RPI stood above 100 for the fifth consecutive month in March, which signifies expansion in the index of key industry indicators.
"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, senior vice president of the Research and Knowledge Group for the association, in a press release. "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."
He added that "bolstered by improving sales and traffic results, restaurant operators€™ outlook for capital spending reached its highest level in more than four years. This will have positive implications throughout the supply chain of the restaurant industry."
Sixty-five percent of restaurant operators reported a same-store sales gain between March 2011 and March 2012, up slightly from 63% who reported a sales gain in February. In addition, 55% of restaurant operators reported higher customer traffic levels between March 2011 and March 2012, while 24% reported a traffic decline.
The Expectations Index stood at 102.4 in March - up 0.4% from February and the strongest level in 15 months. March also represented the seventh consecutive month that the Expectations Index stood above 100, which signifies a positive outlook among restaurant operators for business conditions in the months ahead. Fifty-three percent of restaurant operators expect to have higher sales in six months (compared to the same period in the previous year), matching the proportion who reported similarly last month.