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Restaurant operators losing optimism, the NRA says

Despite gains in comp sales and customer traffic across the restaurant industry, operator enthusiasm may be fading, according to the National Restaurant Association’s latest Restaurant Performance Index.

The RPI, calculated monthly to gauge the current industry climate and outlook, reached a nine-month low during the month of June, for which numbers were released Friday. June’s RPI value stood at 102.0, down 0.4 percent from May.

The decline was due primarily to waning confidence from those doing business in the industry. Restaurant operators’ optimism about future sales growth fell for the first time in two years, the NRA reports, as 42 percent of restaurant owners expected to have higher sales in the next six months compared to the same six-month period last year, down 5 percentage points from May 2015 and 17 percentage points from three years ago.

In addition, only 17 percent of operators said they expected economic conditions to improve in six months, down from 30 percent last month.

"Although same-store sales and customer traffic levels remained positive in June, the overall RPI declined as a result of dampened optimism among restaurant operators," said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the NRA’s research and knowledge group. "The proportion of restaurant operators expecting sales growth fell to its lowest level in nine months, while operators' outlook for the economy turned negative for the first time in nearly two years."

Still, it’s not all gloom and doom, as any index value above 100 demonstrates that key industry indicators—such as same-store sales and labor expenditures—are in a period of expansion, the NRA says. 

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