As a result of softer sales and traffic levels and restaurant operators’ dampened outlook for the economy, the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Performance Index (RPI) declined for the fourth consecutive month. The RPI stood at 100.2 in September, down 0.3 percent from a level of 100.5 in August. Despite the recent declines, the RPI remained above 100 for the seventh consecutive month, which signifies expansion in the index of key industry indicators.
“The RPI’s September decline was due in large part to softer same-store sales and customer traffic readings, which were down from stronger levels in August,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the NRA's Research and Knowledge Group.
“In addition, restaurant operators’ confidence in the economy continued to deteriorate, which was likely due to the fact that the government shutdown and debt ceiling debates occurred during the midst of the survey’s October fielding period,” Riehle added.
The RPI consists of two components – the Current Situation Index (measuring current trends) and the Expectations Index (measuring restaurant operators' six-month outlook) – and tracks the health of and outlook for the U.S. restaurant industry.
The Current Situation Index stood at 99.9 in September – down 0.7 percent from a level of 100.7 in August. September marked the first time in six months that the Current Situation Index fell below 100, which represents contraction in the current situation indicators. Forty-one percent of restaurant operators reported a same-store sales gain between September 2012 and September 2013, down from 53 percent who reported higher sales in August. In comparison, 40 percent of operators reported a decline in same-store sales in September, up from 33 percent in August. Restaurant operators also reported a dip in customer traffic levels.
Although sales and traffic levels softened, restaurant operators continued to report positive capital spending levels. Fifty-seven percent of operators said they made a capital expenditure for equipment, expansion or remodeling during the last three months, the fifth consecutive month in which a majority of operators reported expenditures.
The Expectations Index stood at 100.5 in September – up slightly from a level of 100.4 in August. Although September represented the 11th consecutive month in which the Expectations Index stood above 100, restaurant operators are not as bullish as they were during the first half of the year. Despite an uncertain outlook for the economy, a majority of restaurant operators are planning for capital expenditures in the months ahead. Fifty-two percent of restaurant operators plan to make a capital expenditure for equipment, expansion or remodeling in the next six months, up from 45 percent who reported similarly last month.
More details are available at Restaurant.org/RPI and Restaurant TrendMapper (subscription required).