The extreme weather in Q1 2014 yielded good and bad news for the U.S. restaurant industry — total visits dipped, but delivery got a boost.
According to a new report from the NPD Group, traffic to restaurants declined by 1 percent in the first quarter, while delivery orders increased by 4 percent.
Another positive effect of the extreme cold and hot weather conditions this past winter were double-digit increases in hot tea, hot chocolate and frozen/slushy coffee servings. Additionally, quick-service coffee, donut and bagel restaurants that serve these drinks saw traffic increase by 5 percent compared to the winter quarter of 2013, according to NPD’s Crest foodservice market research.
“Extreme weather conditions affect consumer behavior in different ways,” NPD analyst Bonnie Riggs said in a news release. “The opportunity for restaurant operators is to anticipate bad weather, understand how customers react to bad weather, and put a bad weather plan of action into place.”
Areas of the restaurant industry that have been struggling to increase visits for a while were further hampered by harsh weather in the first quarter. Visits to family dining (midscale) and casual dining restaurants dropped in the quarter compared to year-ago quarter by 4 and 2 percent, respectively. Core lunch and dinner business declined across all restaurant segments, and young adults, ages 25–49, continued cutting back on restaurant visits.
“It’s challenging for operators to minimize the impact of bad weather, but creative marketing strategies can be used to alter consumers’ decision to stay at home,” Riggs said. “Consider changing or adding to the mix of menu items to include ‘bad’ weather items. Use social media to communicate promotions and meal incentives, and take advantage of consumers being indoors watching TV to advertise. We can’t control the weather but we can manage its impact on our business.”