November restaurant performance index mixed

by Eric Schroeder
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WASHINGTON — The outlook for the restaurant industry remained mixed in November, according the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Performance Index (R.P.I.). For the month the R.P.I. registered 97.8, down 0.2% from October. It was the 25th consecutive month the index was below 100.

“Although the R.P.I. remained below 100 for the 25th consecutive month, which signals contraction, restaurant operators are cautiously optimistic that conditions will improve in the months ahead,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice-president of the Research and Knowledge Group for the N.R.A. “Restaurant operators reported a positive six-month sales outlook for the first time in three months, and remained optimistic that the economy will improve during the next six months.”

Restaurant operators reported negative same-store sales for the 18th consecutive month in November, with the overall results similar to September and October. Twenty-four per cent of restaurant operators reported a same-store sales gain between November 2008 and November 2009, up slightly from 22% who reported positive sales in October. Sixty-five per cent of operators reported a same-store sales decline in November, up from 61% in October. Customer traffic also remained soft in November, as restaurant operators reported net negative traffic for the 27th consecutive month.

Along with soft sales and traffic levels, operators reported a decline in capital spending activity. Thirty-three per cent of operators said they made a capital expenditure for equipment, expansion or remodeling during the past three months, down from 40% in October.

Restaurant operators are somewhat more optimistic about sales growth in the months ahead. Thirty-one per cent expect higher sales in the next six months, up slightly from 29% in October.

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