WASHINGTON — The National Restaurant Association said the Restaurant Performance Index was 100.6 in March, up .7 percent from 99.9 in February.

“The Restaurant Performance Index gain was driven by stronger same-store sales results in March with comparisons aided by the Easter holiday occurring during the month,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice-president of the research and knowledge group for the association. “In addition, restaurant operators are somewhat more confident in the economy, and a majority plan to make a capital expenditure in the next six months.”

Forty-four per cent of operators reported a same-store sales gain between March 2012 and March 2013 with 37 percent of operators reporting lower sales. In contrast, 33 percent of operators reported higher same-store sales in February with 48 percent reporting a sales decline.

Operators reported a net decline in customer traffic for the fourth consecutive month in March. Thirty-four per cent of operators reported higher customer traffic in March, and 42 percent said traffic declined. This compared with 24 percent of operators reporting an increase in customer traffic in February with 53 percent reporting lower traffic.

Operators reported an increase in capital spending with 51 percent of operators saying they made a capital expenditure for equipment, expansion or remodeling during the last three months, up from 48 percent who said the same last month.

Operators are more optimistic about the overall economy with 32 percent saying they expect the economy to improve in six months, up from 25 percent last month and the highest level in 10 months. Yet 20 percent of operators said they expect the economy to worsen during the next six months.

The Current Situation Index, which measures same-store sales, traffic and labor and capital expenditures, was at 99.8 in March, up 1.5 percent from February. The Expectations Index, which measures same-store sales, employees, capital expenditures and business conditions, was at 101.4 in March, unchanged from February.