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Foodservice Brief — March 2016

The restaurant industry is not just a single business

Within any industry, purchase decisions are influenced by a variety of consumer needs. With restaurants, the decision is not simply whether to have lunch at a restaurant. Other factors come into play: to have it alone or with others, to dine in the restaurant, or to take the food away to eat it somewhere else. 

After deciding to eat food from a restaurant, then it’s time to decide where to source the food. An operator might be in the breakfast, lunch, supper, or snack business. On-premises service, carry-out, drive-thru, and delivery options may be available. Beyond that, does the operator focus on weekend or weekday business? Does the operator appeal to families with kids or only to adults? Needless to say, many factors go into the process of deciding where to get food and beverages.

Visit situations defined

When creating the visit situations associated with the CREST® database, we segmented the purchase occasions being reported against all of the component factors our panelists are asked to record (daypart, weekpart, where purchased, where eaten, prior activity, and party composition). The end result was 18 unique visit situations. Shown below are the unique situations in rank order of those garnering the greatest share of traffic.

These unique visit situations were created to help define the consumer needs restaurant operators and their supplier partners must consider as they develop marketing strategies and product offerings. The needs to be satisfied and the visit situation that leverages the most significant traffic volume for that concept will vary depending on restaurant type.  

Ranking visit situations

QSR clearly has been the segment driving overall industry performance – CREST shows 76 percent of commercial restaurant traffic moves through QSR channels. Presented below are the visit situation rankings for QSR visits. They closely reflect the visit situation rankings for the total restaurant industry.

QSRs have grown for several years at the morning meal. This growth is shown in the growth of the fast breakfast visit situation. A number of the growing QSR visit situations are those recently noted in our CREST Executive Topline: weekday occasions that satisfy the need for a quick, convenient meal. This is a growing need in the marketplace.  

Ranking visit situations for full service restaurants

Not too surprisingly, there was little to no growth among the unique visit situations applied to visits made to full service restaurants. It has been a very challenging environment for many of these concepts – particularly for independents, as they are a dominant force in this segment. Within the midscale segment, the importance of “full breakfast” is well known. However, the “out to lunch” visit situation also contributes considerable volume to midscale concepts and warrants attention, as visits have declined in recent years.

Casual dining concepts didn’t fare much better than midscale outlets when we evaluated top visit situations. Nearly all of the situations that account for sizeable traffic contribution are declining. The exception is “a bite at night,” where visits have increased by 2 percent over the past year.

Importance of understanding visit situation marketing

While we have provided a snapshot of the consumer needs satisfied for each segment by visit situation, more insight that can be gleaned by viewing an operator’s business in this manner. The visit situation analysis identifies:

  • The size of opportunity offered by each consumer need (situation)
  • The relative position the chain holds within each situation, where the chain is well developed and/or under-developed (its strengths and weaknesses)
  • The competitors of importance within each situation
  • The customers to target with advertising/promotions in order to strengthen a chain’s position in selected situations

By evaluating these unique visit situations for a chain or a restaurant category, we can find pockets of growth where needs are being satisfied, regardless of overall chain/category performance. This lets restaurant operators and their suppliers focus on key situations that are growing and develop tactics and strategies for continued growth. Analysis of visit situations allows companies to identify the situations that leverage a sizeable amount of traffic, and those that need attention to in order to increase consumer visits. Developing marketing strategies based on the unique needs being satisfied or not satisfied could go a long way in helping an operator appeal to consumers and attracting more visits.

To learn more, or if you have any questions, please contact your client service representative, call Bonnie Riggs at 847-692-1767, or email bonnie.riggs@npd.com.

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