The NRA Restaurant Performance Index, the monthly composite index that tracks the health of and outlook for the U.S. restaurant industry, stood at 102.0 in the last month of last year, up 0.5% from its November level and the strongest level in six months.
December also represented the 32nd consecutive month above 100, a level which represents expansion in the Association's composite index of eight key industry indicators.
"Fueled by strong same-store sales, December's solid index performance was the result of broad-based growth across the index components," said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research and information services. "Three out of five restaurant operators reported a same-store sales gain in December, the strongest level in 12 months. In addition, the Expectations Index posted its fourth consecutive monthly increase, which points toward growth in sales, staffing levels and capital expenditures during the next several months."
This assessment substantiates comments expressed to ID Access by foodservice supply chain leaders, who said they are optimistic about prospects for this year. (See story in Jan. 6 edition of ID Report). However, they cautioned that the distributorships should come to grips with supply chain and category management and other operational issues to reduce margin erosion.
The marketing group and vendor executives expressed their bullishness about business next year and beyond, some even forecasting double-digit growth. However, they said, in a continuously challenging marketplace, where one restaurant closes for everyone that closes, distributorships must demonstrate their individuality in addressing operator needs.
Independent operators will continue to be confronted by chains but aggressive, smart and resourceful broadliners will prevail, they said. With expanding consolidation, some distributors will be facing positive opportunities but, on the other hand, less aggressive ones will be left out in the cold.
The industry experts that we contacted also indicated that foodservice vendors will favor partnering with distributors that can impact the market locally and, moreover, distributors will seek vendors that can support that effort.