Although challenging weather conditions continued to negatively impact customer traffic in February, the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Performance Index remained above 100 for the 12th consecutive month. The monthly composite index tracking the health of and outlook for the U.S. restaurant industry stood at 100.5 in February, down a bit from January’s level of 100.7. Despite the modest decline, the fact that the overall RPI remains above 100 continues to signify expansion in the index of key industry indicators.
Another positive indicator, especially during this tougher-than-normal winter, is that operators reported net positive same-store sales for the 12th month in a row. Forty-four percent reported a same-store sales gain in the year-long period, while 37% reported a sales decline. February marks the third consecutive month in which fewer than half of restaurant operators reported higher same-store sales; that net decline extended to customer traffic and led to a dip in capital-spending activity.
Forty-four percent of operators said they made a capital expenditure for equipment, expansion or remodeling during the last three months, the first time in 10 months that less than a majority of operators reported making a purchase.
Operators remain cautiously optimistic about sales growth with 40% anticipating higher sales in six months. Along with that generally optimistic sales outlook, 58% of operators are planning to make a capital expenditure for equipment, expansion or remodeling in the next six months, down slightly from 64% who reported last month.
Despite the net positive same-store sales in February, continued softness in the customer traffic and labor indicators outweighed the performance marker, which resulted in an overall Current Situation Index reading of 99.3, the third consecutive month below 100.
The Expectations Index stood at 101.7 in February; although down slightly from 101.8 the month prior, February was the 16th consecutive month in which the Expectations Index stood above 100, which indicates that operators remain optimistic about business conditions in the coming months.
“Looking forward, operators are generally optimistic about sales gains in the months ahead, although they aren’t as bullish about the overall economy,” said Hudson Riehle, the NRA’s senior v.p.-Research and Knowledge Group.
The full report is available online at Restaurant.org/RPI.