U.S. restaurant sales, traffic declined in December

February 4, 2013

Due in large part to softer same-store sales and customer traffic levels, the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Performance Index (RPI) declined in December 2012. The RPI—a monthly composite index that tracks the health of and outlook for the U.S. restaurant industry—stood at 99.7 in December, down 0.2% from November. In addition, December marked the third consecutive month in which the RPI stood below 100, which signifies contraction in the index of key industry indicators.

“Although restaurant operators reported softer same-store sales and customer traffic levels in December, they are cautiously optimistic about sales growth in the months ahead,” said Hudson Riehle, Senior Vice President of the Research and Knowledge Group for the Association. “However, operators remain decidedly pessimistic about the overall economy, with only 17% saying they expect business conditions to improve in the next six months.”

Although restaurant operators reported net positive same-store sales for the 19th consecutive month, December’s results were much softer than the November performance. Forty-two percent of restaurant operators reported a same-store sales gain between December 2011 and December 2012, down from 55% who reported positive sales in November. In comparison, 38% of operators reported lower same-store sales in December, up from 30% in November.

While overall sales remained positive, restaurant operators reported a net decline in customer traffic levels in December. Thirty-one percent of restaurant operators reported higher customer traffic levels between December 2011 and December 2012, down from 43% who reported positive traffic in November. Meanwhile, 48% of operators reported lower customer traffic levels in December, up from 35% in November.

Press release