Restaurant sales, traffic and capital spending on the rise

Washington, D.C. -- Driven by stronger same-store sales and customer traffic and a more optimistic outlook among restaurant operators, the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Performance Index 's rose to a 10-month high in March. The RPI – a monthly composite index that tracks the health of and outlook for the U.S. restaurant industry – stood at 101.4 in March, up 0.9 percent from February's level of 100.5.  

In addition, the RPI remained above 100 for the 13th consecutive month, which signifies expansion in the index of key industry indicators.

"The solid March increase in the RPI was fueled by stronger sales and traffic levels, which bounced back from the weather-challenged results in recent months," said Hudson Riehle, senior VP of the research and knowledge group for the Association.  "Looking forward, restaurant operators are increasingly optimistic about sales gains, and a majority plan to make capital expenditure in the next six months."

For the first time in four months, a majority of restaurant operators reported higher same-store sales. Fifty-five percent of restaurant operators reported a same-store sales gain between March 2013 and March 2014, up from 44% who reported higher sales in February.  

Restaurant operators also reported stronger customer traffic levels in March. Forty-six percent of restaurant operators reported higher customer traffic levels between March 2013 and March 2014, up from 35% who reported a traffic gain in February. Meanwhile, 33% of operators reported a decline in customer traffic in March, down from 43% in February.

Along with stronger sales and customer traffic results, restaurant operators reported an uptick in capital spending activity.  Forty-nine percent of operators said they made a capital expenditure for equipment, expansion or remodeling during the last three months, up from 44%  who reported similarly last month.

For the seventh consecutive month, a majority of restaurant operators are planning for capital expenditures in the near future. Fifty-eight percent of restaurant operators plan to make a capital expenditure for equipment, expansion or remodeling in the next six months, matching the proportion who reported similarly last month.

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