WASHINGTON — The National Restaurant Association said the Restaurant Performance Index was 100.6 in March, up .7% from 99.9 in February.

“The Restaurant Performance Index gain was driven by stronger same-store sales results in March with comparisons aided by the Easter holiday occurring during the month,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice-president of the research and knowledge group for the association. “In addition, restaurant operators are somewhat more confident in the economy, and a majority plan to make a capital expenditure in the next six months.”

Forty-four per cent of operators reported a same-store sales gain between March 2012 and March 2013 with 37% of operators reporting lower sales. In contrast, 33% of operators reported higher same-store sales in February with 48% reporting a sales decline.

Operators reported a net decline in customer traffic for the fourth consecutive month in March. Thirty-four per cent of operators reported higher customer traffic in March, and 42% said traffic declined. This compared with 24% of operators reporting an increase in customer traffic in February with 53% reporting lower traffic.

Operators reported an increase in capital spending with 51% of operators saying they made a capital expenditure for equipment, expansion or remodeling during the last three months, up from 48% who said the same last month.

Operators are more optimistic about the overall economy with 32% saying they expect the economy to improve in six months, up from 25% last month and the highest level in 10 months. Yet 20% of operators said they expect the economy to worsen during the next six months.

The Current Situation Index, which measures same-store sales, traffic and labor and capital expenditures, was at 99.8 in March, up 1.5% from February. The Expectations Index, which measures same-store sales, employees, capital expenditures and business conditions, was at 101.4 in March, unchanged from February.