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National Restaurant Association - Restaurant Performance Index closes Q1 at post-recession high

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Restaurant Performance Index closes Q1 at post-recession high

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.

RPIMarch2012.jpgThe RPI stood at 102.2 in March, up 0.3 percent 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 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 added. “This will have positive implications throughout the supply chain of the restaurant industry.”

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 102.0 in March – up 0.1 percent from February’s level of 101.9. The Current Situation Index remained above 100 for the fifth consecutive month, which signifies expansion in the current situation indicators.

Sixty-five percent of restaurant operators reported a same-store sales gain between March 2011 and March 2012, up slightly from 63 percent who reported a sales gain in February. In addition, 55 percent of restaurant operators reported higher customer traffic levels between March 2011 and March 2012, while 24 percent reported a traffic decline.

Buoyed by improving sales and traffic levels, restaurant operators continued to report solid capital spending activity. Forty-eight percent of operators said they made a capital expenditure for equipment, expansion or remodeling during the last three months, which ties for the highest level reported since before the recession.

The Expectations Index stood at 102.4 in March – up 0.4 percent 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.

Restaurant operators are also boosting their plans for capital spending in the months ahead. Fifty-six percent of restaurant operators plan to make a capital expenditure for equipment, expansion or remodeling in the next six months, up from 49 percent last month and the strongest level in more than four years.

For additional details, see our news release, full RPI report, and subscription-based Restaurant Trendmapper.

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