U.S. foodservice outlook brightens


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
March 30, 2010

The National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Performance Index (RPI) rose to its highest level in 27 months in February, the Washington, D.C., organization announced on Wednesday.

Fueled by significant improvement in restaurant operators’ outlooks for sales growth, capital spending and staffing, the comprehensive index of restaurant activity stood at 99, up 0.7 percent from January and its highest level since November 2007.

“The RPI’s strong gain in February was the result of broad-based improvements among the forward-looking indicators,” said Hudson Riehle, NRA senior VP of research and knowledge. “Restaurant operators’ optimism for sales growth stood at its strongest level in 29 months, with capital spending plans also rising to a two-year high. In addition, restaurant operators reported a positive outlook for staffing gains for the first time in more than two years. This bodes well for replacing the more than 280,000 eating and drinking place jobs lost during the recession.”

However, same-store sales and customer traffic still remain soft. The Current Situation Index (CSI), which measures same-store sales, traffic, labor and capital expenditures, stood at 96.7 in February, up just 0.1 percent from January. The CSI remained below 100 for the 30th consecutive month, which signifies a contraction.

Overall, restaurant operators reported negative same-store sales for the 21st consecutive month in February, similar to January; 28 percent of operators reported a same-store sales gain between February 2009 and February 2010, compared with 27 percent in January, while 57 percent of operators reported a same-store sales decline in February, the same as in January.

Customer traffic also remained weak in February, as operators reported net negative traffic for the 30th consecutive month. One-quarter of operators reported an increase in customer traffic between February 2009 and February 2010, down slightly from 26 percent in January, while 55 percent of operators reported a traffic decline in February, compared to 54 percent the previous month.

Between two-thirds and three-quarters of the U.S. seafood supply is consumed away from home.

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