The Association's Restaurant Performance Index (RPI), a monthly composite index that tracks the health of and outlook for the U.S. restaurant industry, stood at 101.7 in December, up 0.6% from November and its strongest level in six months. December also represented the 44th consecutive month above 100, a level which represents expansion in the Association's composite index of eight key industry indicators, the association said.
"Fueled by strong same-store sales, December's solid index performance was the result of an impressive gain in the Current Situation component of the RPI," said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of Research and Information Services. "Fifty-four percent of restaurant operators reported a same-store sales gain in December, and a majority of operators expect same-store sales growth to continue in the months ahead.
"Although restaurant operators remain optimistic about sales growth in the coming months, labor-related issues continue to pose a challenge for their businesses," Riehle added. "Thirty percent of operators said 'recruiting and retaining employees' is the number-one challenge currently facing their business."
The December increase in the RPI was driven by strong growth in the current situation component of the index. The Current Situation Index, which measures current trends in four industry indicators (same-store sales, traffic, labor and capital expenditures), stood at 101.4 in December