Foodservice Operators Should Capitalize on Opportunities as Holiday Season Approaches

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November marks the unofficial beginning to one of the most magical times of year — the holiday season. And, there’s no doubt restaurant operators are eager for that special time of year that motivates Canadians to catch up with friends at their favourite restaurants. According to NPD’s annual “Holiday Spending Survey,” nearly half of Canadians begin their holiday shopping in November, and as the season approaches there’s also an increase in spending at restaurants.

This year, such a boost is much needed as NPD’s CREST data confirms 2013 has been a slow year for restaurant sales with very little growth in customer traffic compared to 2012. The expected average sales boost of six per cent during this period — which continues to mid-January — will be a welcome respite. To maximize sales during the mad rush, restaurant operators can take advantage of the following three key opportunities:

The need for convenience: Although the need for convenient meal solutions is a cornerstone of the Canadian restaurant industry, the need for a quick meal solution increases during the holiday season. In fact, CREST research shows that the volume of “off-premise meal occasions” traditionally grows during the holiday season by more than 11 per cent. The sharp increase in “off-premise meals” is a clear indication that weary holiday shoppers are managing their time by cooking less at home and spending more at restaurants.

The special occasion: Now is the time to attract new customers and give loyal customers a reason to visit more often. According to CREST, guest traffic at restaurants associated with a “special occasion” such as an office party, family gathering, birthday, anniversary, lunch with friends, or a simple treat-based afternoon gourmet coffee break increases by an average of 31 per cent during the holiday season, compared to the rest of the year. When customers visit a restaurant motivated by a “special occasion,” they spend more money, which leads to a higher average eater check. This is why restaurant operators should avoid discounts and deals during the holiday season — instead they should promote higher-priced menu items as well as treat-based items such as desserts and decadent baked goods.

Gift cards: The popularity of restaurant gift cards continues to increase, as almost half of Canadians will consider purchasing them as a gift, according to NPD’s “Holiday Spending Survey.” As an added bonus, 36 per cent of consumers who consider purchasing restaurant gift cards are from households with higher incomes. Such cards provide benefits that last beyond the holiday season, such as attracting new customers and increasing brand awareness. And, as an added bonus, many consumers will spend more than the value of the gift cards.

According to the “Holiday Spending Survey,” 57 per cent of Canadians anticipate the holidays while 51 per cent say the season provides them with a break from their hectic schedules. For restaurant operators, capitalizing on these positive attitudes and adapting to the needs of customers during this time will bring holiday cheer to the bottom line.

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