The Expectations Index, which measures restaurant operators' six-month outlook for four industry indicators (same-store sales, employees, capital expenditures and business conditions), stood at 100.3 in December – up 0.3 percent from November. December represented the first time in three months that the Expectations Index rose above the 100 level, which indicates that restaurant operators are becoming somewhat more optimistic about the business environment in the months ahead.
Although restaurant operators remain generally positive about sales growth in the months ahead, their optimism is well down from their bullish outlook during the first half of 2012. Thirty-seven percent of restaurant operators expect to have higher sales in six months (compared to the same period in the previous year), unchanged from last month. Meanwhile, 16 percent of restaurant operators expect their sales volume in six months to be lower than it was during the same period in the previous year, up slightly from 14 percent last month.
In contrast to their sales outlook, restaurant operators are more pessimistic about the direction of the overall economy. Only 17 percent of restaurant operators said they expect economic conditions to improve in six months, down from 21 percent last month. Meanwhile, 29 percent of operators said they expect economic conditions to worsen in the next six months, compared to 36 percent who reported similarly last month.
Despite the uncertain outlook, restaurant operators continue to plan for capital spending in the months ahead. Fifty percent of restaurant operators plan to make a capital expenditure for equipment, expansion or remodeling in the next six months, up from 45 percent who reported similarly last month.The RPI is based on the responses to the National Restaurant Association's Restaurant Industry Tracking Survey, which is fielded monthly among restaurant operators nationwide on a variety of indicators including sales, traffic, labor and capital expenditures. The full report and a video summary are available online.The RPI is released on the last business day of each month, and a more detailed data and analysis can be found on Restaurant TrendMapper, the Association's subscription-based web site that provides detailed analysis of restaurant industry trends. Founded in 1919, the National Restaurant Association is the leading business association for the restaurant industry, which comprises 980,000 restaurant and foodservice outlets and a workforce of more than 13 million employees. We represent the industry in Washington, D.C., and advocate on its behalf. We operate the industry's largest trade show ( NRA Show May 18-21, 2013, in Chicago); leading food safety training and certification program ( ServSafe); unique career-building high school program (the NRAEF's ProStart, including the National ProStart Invitational April 19-21, 2013, in Baltimore, Md.); as well as the Kids LiveWell program promoting healthful kids' menu options. For more information, visit Restaurant.org and find us on Twitter @WeRRestaurants, Facebook and YouTube. SOURCE National Restaurant Association