The National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) comprehensive index of restaurant activity increased by 0.3% from February to stand at 102.2 in March -- matching its post-recession high posted in December 2011. Importantly, the RPI stood above the 100 mark, which signifies expansion, for the fifth straight month.
"The first quarter finished strong with a solid majority of restaurant operators reporting higher same-store sales and customer traffic levels in March," said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the Research and Knowledge Group for the Association. "In addition, restaurant operators are solidly optimistic about sales growth and the economy in the months ahead, which propelled the Expectations component of the RPI to its highest level in 15 months."
"Bolstered by improving sales and traffic results, restaurant operators’ outlook for capital spending reached its highest level in more than four years," Riehle added. "This will have positive implications throughout the supply chain of the restaurant industry."
Meanwhile in March, the Conference Board said consumers' confidence in the economy was virtually unchanged in April, standing at 69.2. But the board noted overall, consumers are more upbeat about the state of the economy, although they remain "cautiously optimistic."
Juli says: After weeks of disappointing news for the beef industry re: the Lean, Finely Textured Beef fiasco, followed by the BSE situation, growth in the restaurant industry is a positive sign for the red meat industry. Hopefully restaurant owners' optimism matches demand!