NRA: Performance Index down, operators still optimistic

Staff Writer
NRA: Performance Index down, operators still optimistic

Despite a slight decline in the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Performance Index for January, operators remained upbeat about sales growth and the improving economy.

The RPI, a monthly composite that tracks the health of and outlook for the foodservice industry, slipped to 101.3 in January, from December’s robust 102.2. But even with the decline, January proved to be the third consecutive month the Index has been above 100.

A number above 100 reflects that major industry indicators are in a period of expansion; a figure below 100 indicates contraction.

“Although the Restaurant Performance Index dipped somewhat from December’s nearly six-year high, it remained solidly in positive territory,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the research and knowledge group for the NRA.

“Restaurant operators reported positive same-store sales for the eighth consecutive month, and a majority of them expect business to continue to improve in the months ahead,” he said.

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

The Current Situation Index fell to 100.6 in January, a decline of 1.5 percent from December’s seven-year high of 102.1. This marks the third consecutive month the Current Index stood above the 100 mark.

Watch a video of Riehle presenting the findings; story continues below

January also was the eighth consecutive month that operators reported positive same-store sales. The NRA said 56 percent of restaurateurs posted same-store sales gains between January 2011 and January 2012, down from a stronger 69 percent who reported a sales gain in December.

Meanwhile, operators said traffic rose in January. Some 46 percent of restaurateurs polled reported higher customer traffic levels between January 2011 and January 2012, compared with 30 percent who reported a traffic decline in December.

The NRA’s Expectations Index was nearly flat in January — 102.1 compared with 102.3 in December. January marked the fifth consecutive month the Expectations Index posted about 100.

In addition, January represented the second consecutive month a majority of operators expect sales will be higher in the coming months. Fifty-three percent of operators said they expect sales will be higher in six months compared with the same period a year ago — up from 51 percent who reported similarly in December.

The RPI is based on the association’s monthly tracking survey.

Contact Paul Frumkin at paul.frumkin@penton.com.