U.S. restaurant performance down in Sept. due to less traffic

November 1, 2012

As a result of softer same-store sales and customer traffic levels, the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Performance Index (RPI) declined in September. The RPI—a monthly composite index that tracks the health of and outlook for the U.S. restaurant industry—stood at 100.4 in September, down 0.3% from August. Despite the decline, September represented the 11th consecutive month that the RPI stood above 100, which signifies continued expansion in the index of key industry indicators.

“Although restaurant operators reported softer same-store sales and customer traffic levels in September, they are somewhat more bullish about sales growth in the months ahead,” said Hudson Riehle, Senior Vice President of the Research and Knowledge Group for the Association. “Forty-five percent of restaurant operators expect their sales to improve in the next six months, while only 11% expect weaker sales.”

Although restaurant operators reported positive same-store sales for the 16th consecutive month in September, results were much softer than recent months. Forty-eight percent of restaurant operators reported a same-store sales gain between September 2011 and September 2012, down from 61% in August 2012 to August 2011. In comparison, 35% of operators reported lower same-store sales in September, up from 25% in August.

While sales remained positive overall, restaurant operators reported a net decline in customer traffic levels in September. Thirty-six percent of restaurant operators reported higher customer traffic levels between September 2011 and September 2012, down from 47% who reported positive traffic in August. Meanwhile, 41% of operators reported lower customer traffic levels in September, up from 32% in August.

Restaurant operators are somewhat more optimistic that their sales levels will improve in the months ahead. Forty-five percent of restaurant operators expect to have higher sales in six months (compared to the same period in the previous year), up from 40% last month and the strongest level in three months. Meanwhile, only 11% of restaurant operators expect their sales volume in six months to be lower than it was during the same period in the previous year, essentially unchanged from 12% last month.

Press release