NRA: Performance Index dips in May

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Their outlook remains optimistic

Restaurant operators reported softer customer traffic in May, but same-store sales figures were up for the month and their outlook remains optimistic, according to the National Restaurant Association’s monthly Restaurant Performance Index (RPI).

The RPI, a monthly composite that tracks the health and outlook of the U.S. restaurant industry, was at 101.4 in May, down 0.2 percent from April’s number of 101.6. Despite the recent decline occurring since a strong March, May marked the seventh consecutive month that the index was above 100 — signifying an expansion of key industry indicators.

“Despite a soft patch in the overall economy, restaurant operators reported positive same-store sales for the 12th consecutive month," said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the Research and Knowledge Group for the NRA. “Looking forward, restaurant operators remain generally optimistic about sales growth in the months ahead, though they are somewhat less bullish about direction of the economy.”

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

The Current Situation Index stood at 100.8 in May, down 0.2 percent from April’s level of 101.0, but above 100 for the seventh consecutive month. Similarly, the Expectations Index was at 102.0 in May, down slightly from April’s level of 102.2, but still more than 100 for the ninth consecutive month.

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The NRA also said that restaurant operators reported positive same-store sales for the twelfth consecutive month. The Index found that 61 percent of operators reported a same-store sales gain between May 2011 and May 2012, up from 57 percent in April. The increase in the number of operators reporting same-store sales gains in May came despite the fact that a greater number of operators reported weaker customer traffic in May than in April, the NRA said.

Finally, the RPI said that restaurant operators are generally optimistic that their sales will improve in the coming months. Forty-eight percent of operators said they expect to have higher sales levels in six months, compared to the same period last year, while only eight percent expect sales to decline over the next six months.

The RPI is based on the responses to the NRA’s monthly tracking survey.

Contact Charlie Duerr at charles.duerr@penton.com.