The restaurant industry in 2022 continues to be impacted by shifts in dining preferences and behavior, but some pandemic consumer and restaurant habits are here to stay. With consumers keeping close tabs on their finances, there are numerous trends and predictions that restaurants should keep in mind to enhance customer experience and drive brand loyalty.
For example, online ordering for takeout and delivery remains strong as a majority of consumers have maintained these pandemic habits. Compared to 2019, online order volumes are up 70 percent. VDX.tv’s data shows that the audience with the highest lift for online ordering during lunch hours are under 40, bring in median household incomes and work in a service industry. The consumers that fall within this demographic fully embrace eCommerce and are adapters of all things digital. The online ordering audience is a sizeable group that restaurant advertisers cannot afford to ignore, and digital advertising is one of the best ways to reach them.
Focus on Loyalty
Restaurants recognize the value of repeat customers and are seizing the opportunity to invest in customer affinity by developing loyalty programs and/or mobile apps that keep consumers faithfully placing takeout orders. According to the Paytronix Annual Loyalty Report 2021, there is an average increase in spend per check of 6 percent among loyalty versus non-loyalty guests. Yum! Brands reports a similar trend, with Taco Bell’s Rewards Program leading to an increase in overall spend of 35 percent for active customers vs. their pre-loyalty purchase behavior.
Using this data, restaurants should dedicate a portion of their marketing efforts to reaching loyalists through personalized messaging. Brands can incentivize frequent or repeat visits with rewards and loyalty discounts and can rest assured that there will be a satisfactory return on investment.
The pandemic increased consumer focus on value and dining out was no exception. Both quick-service restaurants and casual-dining brands recognized the need for loyalty rewards programs to incentivize larger and more frequent orders. It is rare to find a brand that has not developed a mobile app or rewards program yet. Despite app-overload, Blue Dot’s Fifth State of What Feeds Us report shows that 90 percent of consumers would download and use a restaurant app more often if it gave them access to better prices. Not only do apps keep brands visibly present on smartphones, but they can also push occasional notifications for exclusive offers and new limited-time offers.
Consumers are seeking new experiences, tastes, and value from restaurant brands. This is being best delivered through limited time offers (LTOs). While offering new menu items, restaurants are able to not only increase the frequency of existing diners—especially loyalists—but also attract new visitors to the brand. It’s crucial to allocate marketing budget behind each LTO initiative with a focus on unique reach and low-to-moderate frequency.
The goal should be to reach as many potential customers as possible to find and attract those that resonate with the latest offering. Many brands have introduced plant-based menu items this year to attract new audiences to their restaurants. LTOs offer unique opportunities to appeal to non-traditional demographics and grow loyalists.
Diners continue to value quick service and convenience when it comes to lunch and dinner takeout. But quick-serves are competing for market share more than ever now that casual dining brands have bolstered their off-premise dining capabilities and have established virtual brands to increase their presence.
With dedicated curbside to-go spaces and virtual brands competing in the space, traditional casual-dining brands are attempting to grow two loyal bases out of the same kitchen—and it’s working for most. This hyper competitive space for convenient, quick-serve meals has been part of the reason for a shift to digital advertising during the pandemic.
For those in the quick-service restaurant industry, it is crucial to incorporate digital advertising into their marketing mix. Inflation may be at an all-time high, but consumers still need to eat and are looking for fast satisfaction and value when they opt to eat out. Digital media keeps brands top of mind amongst diners and provides personalized consumer experiences that will keep customers coming back for more.
As Head of Industry Solutions for Restaurants, Justin Worster is responsible for leveraging VDX.tv’s data, consumer research, and insights tools to develop holistic marketing strategies aimed at guiding restaurant clients toward their desired digital advertising outcomes. Prior to joining VDX.tv (formerly Exponential), Justin worked as an accountant and consultant for small businesses and federal clients. He also served in the U.S. Air Force for 11 years as a Farsi and Dari translator, while simultaneously earning a B.B.A. in Accounting from Loyola University Maryland