The association’s Restaurant Performance Index poll includes a variety of questions about restaurant operators’ personal opinions as well as their businesses actual sales and customer volumes. A composite score of 100 or higher for the index indicates expansion in the industry.
Since late 2011 the monthly index has been above 100. For October, however, it dipped almost a full point to 99.5. Riehle said it is not unusual for the index to drop during politically charged times, such as before a presidential election.
“The magnitude of the decline was surprising, though, because of how the index has improved in the last year and a half,” Riehle said.
“Consumers always get a bit anxious in a highly-charged political climate and the barrage of negative campaign ads probably had an impact.”
Despite their lack of economic optimism, the restaurant operators reported positive same-store sales for the 17th consecutive month. Also incongruous with their outlook, half of restaurant operators are planning capital expenditures in the next six months, up from 44% in September.