Restaurant operators expressed a mixed outlook for future business in the latest survey from the National Restaurant Association.

Outook cloudy for restaurant operators“Although restaurant operators reported positive same-store sales and customer traffic results in July, the (Restaurant Performance Index) edged down as a result of a mixed outlook for the months ahead,” Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the Research and Knowledge Group for the association said in a release. “Restaurant operators were less bullish about the direction of the overall economy, and rising wholesale food costs are once again starting to pose a significant challenge.”

The index is a monthly measure of restaurant industry health, with performance rated up or down from a “steady state” reading of 100. For July, the index was 101, down from 101.3 in June and the second straight monthly decline. Even so, the performance index remained above 100 for the 17th consecutive month, according to the release.

About one quarter of restaurant operators surveyed said they expect economic conditions to improve in six months, with 19% expecting a downturn in the economy. The balance — 56% — said they expected economic conditions in six months to continue about the same, according to the release.

Most restaurant operators report higher same-store sales, which has been true for the last five months, according to the release. In July, 54% of operators reported same-stores sales gains compared with a year ago, while 30% reported a sales decline.

Traffic levels were also higher, with 41% of operators reporting an increase in traffic levels compared with a year ago; 34% of operators reported a decline in customer traffic, according to the release.