"Driven by solid same-store sales and traffic results and an increasingly bullish outlook among restaurant operators, the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Performance Index
(RPI) matched its post-recession high in March. The RPI – a monthly composite index that tracks the health of and outlook for the U.S. restaurant industry – stood at 102.2 in March, up 0.3 percent from February and equaling its post-recession high that was previously reached in December 2011 (see chart above). In addition, the RPI stood above 100 for the fifth consecutive month in March, which signifies expansion in the index of key industry indicators.
The Expectations Index, which measures restaurant operators’ six-month outlook for four industry indicators (same-store sales, employees, capital expenditures and business conditions), stood at 102.4 in March – up 0.4 percent from February and the strongest level in 15 months. March also represented the seventh consecutive month that the Expectations Index stood above 100.
Fifty-six percent of restaurant operators plan to make a capital expenditure for equipment, expansion or remodeling in the next six months, up from 49 percent last month and the strongest level in more than four years."
MP: Further evidence of an improving outlook for U.S. restaurants is provided by Census data showing that sales for "Food Services and Drinking Places" were up by 6.6% in March from a year earlier, following a 9.3% increase in February. After being flat in 2008 and 2009, sales at "food services and drinking places" are now about 16% above the June 2009 level when the recession officially ended.
Moreover, the retail sales at "Full Service Restaurants" were up by 13.6% year-over-year in February following a 10.75% increase in January. The relevant data suggest that the restaurant industry has made a full recovery from the recession and is now operating back above pre-recession levels.