CHICAGO – A new National Restaurant Association survey revealed that changes in local weather conditions and even weather forecasts affect sales and customer traffic.

More than 90 percent of restaurant operators across various formats said changes in the weather impacted their business, according to the association's 2011 Restaurant Operator Survey. This included 93 percent of family dining, 94 percent of casual dining and 96 percent of fine dining operators.

"Weather affects various operations differently," said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the NRA's Research & Knowledge Center. "Say you have a destination restaurant and the weather conditions where it is located are bad. Obviously, sales volume will suffer.

"Conversely, if a restaurant is located in shopping center, those same conditions could actually boost sales, especially if the weather causes more consumers to spend their time shopping," he added.

Weather forecasts also can negatively impact sales and traffic at restaurants, the survey found. Among respondents, 87 percent of quick service, 91 percent of fast casual, 91 percent of casual dining, 90 percent of fine dining and 89 percent of family-dining operators said weather forecasts have an impact on their respective businesses.

"It's not just the weather, but weather forecasts that affect business," Riehle said. "If a restaurant is situated in a weekend destination location and the five-day forecast indicates there will be bad weather in the area, tourists may make other plans and not travel to that destination — even if the weather actually turns out to be fine. Weather forecasts can definitely dampen sales for certain restaurant operations."