Restaurant visits can be incentivised with vouchers – but be careful about your brand
Customers may be eating out less due to the ongoing economic recession, but they are remaining loyal to the same restaurants. Additionally, customers are strongly motivated, especially in these straightened times, by the offer of money off coupons and special offers.
This is the principal finding of Empathica’s latest consumer insights research into restaurant dining.
According to the data, three in four people think the economy has prompted the average consumer to eat out less often. Yet despite declining visits to restaurants, consumers indicate they are just as loyal (68%), or even more loyal (15%) to the restaurants they frequent.
“In hard times, many consumers crave familiarity and reliability. When choosing to dine out, it’s no different,” said Gary Edwards, Empathica EVP of Client Services.
“If they’re spending their hard-earned money on a meal, they want to know they’ll be getting good food and an experience they’ll enjoy.”
Edwards explained that in order for brands to grow their customer base today, they must provide a trigger that prompts a consumer to try something that’s out of their comfort zone.
Calling for coupons
Of twelve options given, the most frequent reason (36%) for considering switching to trial a new restaurant was a coupon or discount. A separate question validated this finding, with more than half of consumers indicating that a coupon or discount offer did recently prompt them to a visit a restaurant they might not have otherwise tried.
Previous Empathica consumer insights data suggested that consumers are less satisfied with customer service today – expecting more from their restaurant visits – though this data indicates that while not fully satisfied, consumers do recognize the value of their visits. Survey respondents tipped in the favor of being happy with the value received (43%), over not being satisfied (36%).
“Offering discounts and coupons seems like the right strategy, but these can change the face of your brand and the way you do business,” explained Edwards. “Without careful consideration you risk alienating your most loyal customers in attempt to obtain new ones. It’s a very difficult position that restaurateurs face right now.”
While Fine Dining restaurants had the most significant reduction in spending in 2009 compared to 2008, it was the only food sector that showed slight growth with future consumer spending intentions. Only 2.8% of respondents said they “spent more” at fine dining in 2009, whereas 3.1% plan to “spend more” in the future.
Other notable statistics include:
– 63% of survey participants said they eat at home more often now than they did in the past.
– When asked approximately how many times a week they go to a restaurant, the majority (41%) said “once.” Another 18% said “zero.”
– When asked the same question for delivery, an overwhelming three out of four consumers indicated “zero.”
– 38% decreased their frequency of purchasing takeout in 2009; only 4% increased their takeout habits.
– Men were less likely to give up takeaway food, with 33% indicating a reduction in takeout food, whereas 42% of women said the same.
About Empathica: Empathica provides Customer Experience Management programs to more than 200 of the world’s leading brands, ranging from multi-unit retailers, to banks and restaurants.
Annually, Empathica’s 30 million customer surveys in 17 languages reach more than 70,000 locations. A privately-held organization, Empathica is headquartered in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.
More info: www.empathica.com