WASHINGTON – The National Restaurant Association’s February Restaurant Performance Index (RPI), driven by improving sales and traffic levels plus growing optimism among restaurant operators, gained 0.4% from its January level and stood at 100.7.

“February’s RPI gain was driven by solid improvements in the same-store sales and customer traffic indicators,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the Research and Knowledge Group for the association. “Restaurant operators reported positive same-store sales and customer traffic results in February, after January’s results were dampened by extreme weather conditions in many parts of the country.”

Restaurant operators’ outlook for capital spending also hit a 40-month high, while their expectations for staffing growth rose to the highest level in nearly four years, Riehle added.

The RPI consists of two components: the Current Situation Index (measuring current trends) and the Expectations Index (measuring restaurant operators’ six-month outlook) - and tracks the health of and outlook for the US restaurant industry.

In February, the Current Situation Index stood at 99.4 – up 0.9% from its January level. However, it remained below 100 for the fourth consecutive month, as the softness in the labor and capital expenditure indicators outweighed the gains in same-store sales and customer traffic.

The Expectations Index stood at 101.9 in February – up slightly from January’s level of 101.8. Restaurant operators’ plans for capital spending rose to its highest level in 40 months, thanks to an improving sales outlook. Restaurant operators also reported a positive outlook for staffing gains in the months ahead for the fifth consecutive month.