Consumer Insights Survey: Restaurant Brand Loyalty Remains High Despite Declining Visits

According to the Empathica Consumer Insights survey, consumers prompted to try a different restaurant are most motivated by coupons and discount offers.

By Gary Edwards, PhD, and Sherri Kolomayz

Q1 2010, Issue 3

Empathica Inc., a leading provider of Customer Experience Management (CEM) solutions to some of the world’s most respected brands, announced that its Consumer Insights survey shows that restaurant brand loyalty has remained high despite the economy.
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.

The Consumer Verdict: Coupons Are the Answer
Of twelve options, 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.”

Previous Spending Versus Spending Intentions
The Empathica Consumer Insights survey also asked respondents about their spending habits in 2009 compared to 2008, as well as future spending intentions.

Consumers Reduce Fine Dining Spend

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 takeout, with 33% indicating a reduction in takeout food, whereas 42% of women said the same.

About the Empathica Consumer Insights Panel:
The Empathica Consumer Insights serves as an authoritative voice on consumer based economic indicators; the retail, financial services and restaurant industries; consumer shopping intentions and customer satisfaction as reported by thousands of consumers in the U.S. and Canada. Results from Empathica’s Consumer Insights, led by Dr. Gary Edwards and Empathica’s Consumer Insights’ team, are published on a quarterly basis. The results are based on outbound Internet surveys with Empathica’s growing Insights Panel, derived from more than 30 million consumer surveys per year. Results have been weighted to reflect latest Census distributions in the U.S. and in Canada, including Region, Gender, Age and Income.

Aforementioned data is reported by the Empathica Consumer Insights Panel – Q1 2010, Issue 3.

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