Deal-Driven Restaurant Traffic in Decline

One good indicator that the economy has improved is that consumers are not as concerned with discounts when choosing their restaurant meals. According to research by the NPD Group, people aren’t putting value menus over every other consideration when it comes to dining out now. In fact, for the 12 months ending in August of 2012, non-deal restaurant traffic actually increased 1 percent. For the second consecutive 12-month period of time, restaurant visitors are proving that they don’t feel the need to be as frugal as they did at the height of the recession in 2008.

Why Deal-Driven Traffic Has Decreased

Since August of 2011, deal-driven traffic has been on a steady decline. And while it is a promising sign that diners are more confident in their spending habits, there could be other reasons for this trend. The NPD Group points out that the decrease in the attraction to restaurant deals might be due to consumers assuming dollar menus and value meals are not special promotions. Instead, people may believe these items are part of the restaurant’s regularly priced menus.

Essentially, when combo meals and other deals remain on the marketplace for a while, consumers begin to view them as if they are priced normally, not as discounts. The ironic aspect about this perception is that although value-related meals have decreased, people are ordering combos more frequently. Yet consumers don’t view their combo orders as tied to any deal. This is interesting to note, especially since coupons and other types of discounts have increased.

How Should Restaurant Operators Respond?

Now that it is evident that consumers often take restaurant deals for granted, operators may worry about how they can stand out from the competition. This is a valid concern. But there are several things you can do to make your restaurant more appealing to potential visitors.

First, take the time to reevaluate your value offerings. However, don’t just examine them in terms of price alone. Look at your deals from the perspective of quality and service. People care a lot about these crucial aspects when they go to a restaurant.

Also, make sure your menu always has variety. Offering consumers diverse menu choices is very attractive. The NPD Research Group confirms this is very important to people who dine out on a regular basis.

And, finally, consider creating an online menu. This can be a very profitable way to bring in new customers. The research group Technomic Inc. conducted a survey in which nearly 60 percent of respondents born between 1977 and 1992 stated that they look up restaurant menus online. An online presence can help you draw more consumers to sample your menu items.

A Great Meal is Always a Good Deal

Times may be changing when it comes to deal-driven restaurant meals, but consumers will never stop looking for great value when they eat out. So you can make your restaurant more inviting by providing quality food and exceptional service at a reasonable price.

As the economy continues to improve, deeper discounts may not be as necessary to bring people through your doors. If you keep quality in mind and constantly think about your consumers’ needs, you will always be able to compete for the long term.

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