Restaurant Traffic Up

Just time for sweltering summer days, the competition for the consumer food dollar remains hot.

The most recent Restaurant Performance Index (RPI) conducted by the National Restaurant Association revealed 14-month high, spurred by strong same-store sales and higher traffic.

The monthly composite index tracking the health and outlook for the nations’ resultant industry was at 101.8 in May, up nearly 1 percent (0.9 percent) from April and the third straight month that the index topped the key figure of 100 that signifies expansion. Nearly two thirds (63 percent) of restaurant operators reported same-sale gains between May 2012 and May 2013, higher than the 49 percent who reported stronger sales between Aprils of those same years. At the same time, nearly half (47 percent) of operators said that traffic levels were higher from may 2012 to may 2013, compared to the 35 percent figure from April to April.

Likewise, capital spending is up. Just over half (52 percent) of operators say they’ve made a capital expenditure for expansion or remodeling in the past three months, up five percent from those who said they had such plans last month.

Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the research and knowledge group for the association, says that the recent figures hopefully represent at trend and not consecutive blips in a post-recession, still-certain era. “In addition, restaurant operators remain optimistic about continued sales growth and a majority plan to make a capital expenditure in the next six months,” he says.

That positive news aside, operators say they understand that competition for consumers’ food expenditures remains tight. Thirty percent of operators project that economic conditions will improve over the next six months, similar to the 28 percent who reported their sentiment on that issue last month.

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