WASHINGTON - For the first time in 29 months, the National Restaurant Association's index of overall restaurant traffic and sales topped the 100 mark in the month of March. The N.R.A.'s Restaurant Performance Index (RPI) hit 100.5 in March, an increase of 1.4 percent over the previous month and the highest point since September 2007.

"The RPI's solid performance in March was driven by improvements among both the current-situation and forward-looking indicators," said Hudson Riehle, N.R.A.'s senior vice president of the research and knowledge group.

The R.P.I. is a monthly composite index that tracks the economic performance and outlook for the U.S. restaurant industry. A baseline of 100 is used as the benchmark for how well the foodservice segment is performing. It is derived using two components- measuring current and expectations indices.

"Restaurant operators reported net gains in both same-store sales and customer traffic in March, the first time in 31 months that both indicators stood in positive territory."

"In addition, restaurant operators are increasingly optimistic about growth in sales and staffing levels in the months ahead, while their outlook for the economy soared to its strongest level in five years," Mr. Riehle said.