The Full-Service Facts

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With the holiday season fast approaching, your calendar will likely start to fill up with invites for dinners, lunches, holiday parties and cocktail get-togethers, which tend to take place in full-service restaurants (FSRs).

Momentum has been strong for the FSR segment over the last five years. Overall, visits have grown from 1.4 billion in 2015 to 1.7-billion visits in 2019. Although growth in the FSR space slowed slightly in 2019, the segment still registered a healthy three-per-cent increase in year-over-year traffic, according to The NPD Group.

While the segment has seen traffic growth overall, the frequency at which consumers are visiting FSR (within a three-month period) has been declining. The NPD Group’s FSR Report Wave 10 shows, as a result, operators are being forced to work harder to attract new consumers to replace the heavy users who had historically driven traffic growth.

As we consider the fact FSR consumers are visiting restaurants less frequently,
operators should seriously consider the reasons why. According to the report, 55 per cent of consumers reported price/value was the reason they were avoiding FSRs, while 46 per cent of consumers suggested they were cooking more meals at home and cutting back on going out altogether.

There are, however, some solid opportun-ities in the FSR space. For example, breakfast is driving growth at FSR, accounting for one in five visits. Furthermore, delivery represents an untapped opportunity for many operators. Despite the fact FSR delivery represents six per cent of traffic, this segment accounted for 52 per cent of growth on the year. In fact, four out of 10 consumers order FSR delivery at least once a month. Not surprisingly, this category is being driven by consumers who are looking for speed, convenience and quality — specifically, younger consumers, as well as families with children.

Operators in the FSR space must consider that in order to grow, they must either increase the frequency with which current consumers come through the door or attract new consumers. Uniqueness is a key factor helping independents grow their share of consideration and visits, as younger adults are driven by a sense of food exploration.

Operators can benefit from creating an atmosphere that will attract consumers seeking new and exciting food-and-beverage options. Innovating continuously should be top-of mind for all operators as it’s re-invention that keeps current consumers happy, while at the same time attracting new, untapped clientele.

Written by Vince Sgabellone

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