R.P.I. registers third straight gain in March

by Keith Nunes
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WASHINGTON — The National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Performance Index (R.P.I.) rose in March for the third straight month and now stands at 97.7, up 0.2% compared with February and 1.3% compared with the past three months.

"Although the R.P.I. remained below 100 for the 17th consecutive month, which signals contraction, there are clear signs of improvement," said Hudson Riehle, senior vice-president of research and information services for the N.R.A. "Restaurant operators reported a positive six-month economic outlook for the first time in 18 months, and capital spending plans rose to a nine-month high."

The Current Situation Index, which measures current trends in four industry indicators, including same-store sales, traffic, labor and capital expenditures, stood at 96.1 in March, down 0.4% from February and the first decline in three months.

The Expectations Index, which measures restaurant operators’ six-month outlook for the four industry indicators, stood at 99.4 in March, up 0.9% from February and its fourth consecutive monthly gain. Although the index remained below 100 for the 17th consecutive month, it rose to its strongest level in 14 months.

The growth in the Expectations Index was buoyed by restaurant operators’ outlook for the economy. In fact, for the first time in 18 months, a higher proportion of restaurant operators said they expect the economy to improve in six months, as compared to the percent who expect economic conditions to worsen. Thirty per cent of restaurant operators said they expect economic conditions to improve in six months, up from 22% who reported similarly last month and the highest level in 21 months. In comparison, only 21% of operators expect economic conditions to worsen in six months, down sharply from 36% last month.

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