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Restaurants Finished 2004 on a Strong Note, Reports NRA;Indices Reached Records in December Same-st

WASHINGTON, DC - The outlook for the restaurant industry grew increasingly optimistic in December, as the National Restaurant Association's comprehensive index of restaurant activity expanded to a record level, according to commercial operators' trade association.

The NRA Restaurant Performance Index, a monthly composite index that tracks the health of and outlook for the U.S. restaurant industry, jumped 1.7% above its November level. December's robust Index performance matched the previous record high of 105.0 registered in February 2004.

"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. "Nearly two-thirds of restaurant operators reported a same-store sales gain in December - the strongest level in 10 months. In addition, the Expectations Index posted its third consecutive monthly increase, which points toward growth in sales, staffing levels and capital expenditures during the next several months."

GAINS DRIVEN BY SAME-STORE SALES, TRAFFIC
The December increase was driven by strong growth in the Current Situation Index, which measures current trends in four industry indicators (same-store sales, traffic, labor and capital expenditures), This indicator increased 3.1% in December, its strongest single-month gain on record.

The Restaurant Performance Index

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