Restaurant owner optimism spikes in September

Even as consumers move to cut back on their spending in recent months, particularly on discretionary items such as dining out, the restaurant industry still appears to be running strong.

Even as consumers move to cut back on their spending in recent months, particularly on discretionary items such as dining out, the restaurant industry still appears to be running strong.

The most recent Restaurant Performance Index from the National Restaurant Association jumped to 100.1 in September, marking the first time in three months that the figure stood above 100, which indicates an industry in expansion.

The monthly study also found 50 percent of restaurant owners reported sales gains in September over the same period in 2010. That figure is up from 45 percent in August. Nearly half of respondents - 43 percent - reported higher customer traffic in September as well.

The gains may indicate improving consumer confidence, which economists have been fretting over in recent weeks due to high unemployment and widespread market uncertainty.

"The September increase in the [RPI] was fueled by improvements in the same-store sales and customer traffic indicators," said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the Research and Knowledge Group at the Association. "Restaurant operators are more optimistic about sales growth in the months ahead, while their outlook for the overall economy remains cloudy."