Full-service restaurants (FSR) have been feeling the pinch since the 2008 recession. Traffic in the segment dropped nearly six per cent between 2008 and 2012, but it’s not all doom and gloom. FSR operators experienced their first period of annual traffic growth over the past year, combined with a four-per-cent gain in dollars. Canadians spend nearly $24 billion per year at these restaurants, and, while they may be frequenting them less often, they’re spending more during their visits.
To grow business in the full-service segment operators need to take share by driving loyalty and repeat business. To do that, it’s important to find out what full-service consumers want.
Get Back to basics
According to The NPD Group’s “Full-Service Dining Report,” quality food is number 1 on the FSR consumer’s wish list. And, while FSR consumers also indicate it’s important to receive the full dining experience during their visits — including superior service and atmosphere — what matters most is what’s on the plate; it’s the price of entry.
Better tasting foods and a craving for specific menu items, not price, are the key drivers when customers choose a FSR dining location. Delivering on this demand for great taste requires a specific understanding of what consumers want.
Innovate on the menu
The overwhelming majority of FSR visitors say they want “greater menu variety,” and this trend is growing. Healthy options, food sourced from Canada and mini portions for sampling rise to the top of the list when it comes to what consumers want to see on menus. Other customer demands include dishes made from natural ingredients, ethnic-inspired options and simple dishes — ideas that offer operators opportunity to deliver on the demand for greater variety.
A key to success is not only innovating to appeal to what the customer wants but also understanding who wants what. For example, women aged 55 to 64 are more likely to want healthy options, which can influence menus, imagery and brand positioning.
Don’t be everything to everyone
FSRs with clear brand identities and positioning have grown their traffic, despite the challenges within the segment. The lesson: ‘don’t occupy the middle.’ Have a clear direction, based on an understanding of the full-service customer. That will allow you to build and maintain a strong brand identity consumers can identify with when deciding where to eat.