U.S. restaurants bounce back from bad winter

May 5, 2014

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 (RPI) 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% 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 Vice President 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 expenditures 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. In comparison, 32% of operators reported a decline in same-store sales in March, down from 37% 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.

Restaurant operators are increasingly optimistic about sales gains in the coming months. Forty-nine 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 highest level in nearly two years. In contrast, only 6% of restaurant operators expect their sales volume in six months to be lower than it was during the same period in the previous year, down from 11% last month.

Press release