Many medial channels are filling their space with reports about a recovering economy. Restaurant operators may be wondering how this news translates to their business as they look out on dining rooms that are less than full. While consumers are feeling somewhat better about their personal financial situations, they haven’t increased their spending on frequent restaurant excursions. The latest American Express MarketBriefing indicates there are steps restaurant operators can take to fill those empty seats.
Consumer caution regarding restaurants expenditures is evident in the most recent survey data. The number of consumers planning to dine out more than once a week at a full service restaurant this year has increased only 2% over previous survey results from 2009. The results show a 10% drop in consumers who plan to eat out once a month or a few times a month at these restaurants. Instead, 8% more consumers will be making these restaurant stops only every few months. A similar trend is in store for quick serve restaurants where there is a 12% increase in the number of consumers who plan to make these restaurant visits a treat that happens only every few months. Only the fast casual sector restaurants showed stability in the number of consumers who plan to maintain the current rate of dining out this year.
Discounts, coupons and promotions show strength in their ability to bring consumers through the door. And third-party coupons, such as those promoted through Groupon and LivingSocial, now used by 30% of consumers, are popular across all income groups:
- $150,000 +: 33% (Annual household income)
- $100,000-$149,999: 31%
- $75,000-$99,999: 46%
- $50,000-$74,999: 28%
- $35,000-$49,999: 25%
- $25,000-$34,999: 27%
- Under $25,000: 29%
There’s also the question of what specials to promote to attract consumers. Since the last survey was posted 2 years ago, consumers are not as likely to find buy one entrée, get one free promotions or combo meals for a set price as appealing, though these offerings are still considered top traffic generators. The only surveyed item that maintained its popularity over the past two years was the offer of a free appetizer or dessert with entrée.
Analysts also underscore the importance of offering quality food and service in order to keep consumers coming back for more. Competition remains fierce for the dining out dollar and operators must market creatively and effectively to increase foot traffic.[Source: the Post-Recession Mindset. Market Briefing. American Express. Technomic.com. April 2011. Web. 21 Apr. 2011]