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NRA Index Falls to Record Low

LOS ANGELES -- The performance of U.S. restaurants worsened in November as visits and sales at established eateries declined from a year earlier, Reuters reported, citing figures released by the National Restaurant Association (NRA), which represents 945,000 restaurant and foodservice outlets throughout the United States.

The NRA’s Restaurant Performance Index, which tracks the health and outlook for the industry, fell to a record low of 96.7 percent in November, down 0.4 percent from October. The index has been below 100 for 13 months.

"A solid majority of restaurant operators reported negative same-store sales and traffic levels in November, while nearly one-half expect their sales in six months to be lower than the same period in the previous year," stated Hudson Riehle, the NRA's senior vice president of research and information services.

With the exception of top-performing chains like McDonald's Corp., restaurants have been hard hit by the U.S. housing market collapse and the subsequent recession and credit crunch. Diners, who are grappling with rising unemployment and job insecurity, are cutting back on meals away from home and trading down to lower-cost restaurants.

"Looking forward, restaurant operators aren't particularly optimistic about an improvement either, with 49 percent expecting economic conditions to worsen in six months," Riehle said.

Earlier this month, NRA reported restaurant sales are expected to be $566 billion in 2009. While this forecast projects a 2.5-percent increase from 2007 in current-dollar sales, the numbers translate to an inflation-adjusted decline of 1 percent, Reuters reported.
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