After a brutal two years, the restaurant industry may finally be turning a corner. If the uptick gains momentum and Americans continue to order out, it would spell good news for restaurant exchange traded funds (ETFs).

Robert James Tursi of Latin King restaurant in Des Moines is a living testament to the recent upswing in food joint businesses. On many occasions last year, Tursi had to close one of his three dining rooms and pare his kitchen to a skeleton crew. This year, he’s been able to reopen his dining room and hire a fully staffed crew, reports William Neuman of The New York Times.

According to Tursi, food sales were 10% higher in February and March than they were during the same span last year.

A report by the NPD group, which tracks sales at 47 restaurant chains, showed that after 10 consecutive months of year-over-year sales declines, March sales at restaurants open for at least one year were up 1 percent compared with March of last year. [5 ETFs to Play the New Retail Climate.]

Still, sales for the year are forecast to drop 0.1%. That would make three consecutive years of sales decline.

Despite the lukewarm forecast, restaurants are hiring. Through March of this year, the industry added 42,500 jobs, adjusted for seasonal hiring cycles. That’s still 251,000 jobs fewer than in 2007, but it shows that owners are becoming more optimistic. [Opportunity in the Gaming ETF?]

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