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Restaurant Performance Index Reaches 11-Month Low

WASHINGTON D.C. (August 31, 2011)—The National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Performance Index (RPI) fell below 100 in July, as the nation’s debt woes contributed to a souring outlook on the economy, the industry’s primary trade association said.

The National Restaurant Association’s Performance Index fell to 99.7 last month, down from 100.6 in June and the lowest level since August 2010, the Washington, D.C.-based group said in an Aug. 31 statement.

“Although same-store sales and customer traffic levels remained positive in July, restaurant operators’ outlook for the economy took a pessimistic turn,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the Research and Knowledge Group for the Association.  “This survey month was burdened with the debt ceiling crisis and the downgrade in the nation’s credit rating, which added an additional layer of uncertainty in an already fragile economic recovery.”

“However, if the economy can avoid additional negative shocks in the months ahead, the overall fundamentals continue to point toward growth in the second half of the year,” Riehle added.

The restaurant business has come under pressure in recent months as high unemployment, expensive gasoline and a weak housing market discouraged people from eating out. That’s concerning for producers, who rely on restaurants, hotels and other foodservice operations for a large portion of demand.

In current dollar terms, industrywide sales were projected to reach a record $604.2 billion in 2011, up 3.6% from 2010, Riehle said in May. When accounting for inflation, restaurant sales are expected to rise 1.1% this year, the first increase since 2007. Sales fell an average of 1.3% the previous three years.

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