The outlook for the restaurant industry improved somewhat in October, as the National Restaurant Association's comprehensive index of restaurant activity registered its first gain in three months. The Association's Restaurant Performance Index (RPI) a monthly composite index that tracks the health of and outlook for the U.S. restaurant industry stood at 98.0 in October, up 0.5% from its September level (see top chart above). However, the RPI still remained below 100 for the 24th consecutive month, which signifies contraction in the index of key industry indicators. Although restaurant operators continue to report soft samestore sales and customer traffic levels, they are somewhat more optimistic about improving conditions in the months ahead.
MP: Although not reported by the NRA, the bottom chart above shows the percentage change in the RPI from the same month in the previous year. Following negative year-to-year growth in 23 out of 24 months from September of 2007 through August 2009, there have been positive increases in September and October of this year, marking the first back-to-back monthly increases since the summer of 2006. Further, the October-to-October gain of 0.93% is the single largest monthly gain since a 1.3% increase in September 2006, more than three years ago.