Empathica Inc., a provider of Customer Experience Management (CEM) solutions, has announced that its Consumer Insights survey shows that restaurant brand loyalty has remained high despite the economy.
According to the data, three in four people think the economy has prompted the average consumer to eat out less often. Yet despite declining visits to restaurants, consumers indicate they are just as loyal (68%), or even more loyal (15%) to the restaurants they frequent.
"In hard times, many consumers crave familiarity and reliability. When choosing to dine out, it's no different," said Gary Edwards, Empathica executive vice president of client services. "If they're spending their hard-earned money on a meal, they want to know they'll be getting good food and an experience they'll enjoy." Edwards explained that in order for brands to grow their customer base today, they must provide a trigger that prompts a consumer to try something that's out of their comfort zone. Consumers will respond to coupons
Of 12 options, the most frequent reason (36%) for considering switching to try a new restaurant was a coupon or discount. A separate question validated this finding, with more than half of consumers indicating that a coupon or discount offer did recently prompt them to a visit a restaurant they might not have otherwise tried.
Previous Empathica Consumer Insights data suggested that consumers are less satisfied with customer service today -- expecting more from their restaurant visits –- though this data indicates that while not fully satisfied, consumers do recognize the value of their visits. Survey respondents tipped in the favor of being happy with the value received (43%), over not being satisfied (36%).
"Offering discounts and coupons seems like the right strategy, but these can change the face of your brand and the way you do business," Edwards said. "Without careful consideration you risk alienating your most loyal customers in attempt to obtain new ones. It's a very difficult position that restaurateurs face right now."
Future spending
The Empathica Consumer Insights survey also asked respondents about their spending habits in 2009 compared to 2008, as well as future spending intentions.
While fine dining restaurants had the most significant reduction in spending in 2009 compared to 2008, it was the only food sector that showed slight growth with future consumer spending intentions. Only 2.8 percent of respondents said they "spent more" at fine dining in 2009, whereas 3.1 percent plan to "spend more" in the future.

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