During this period of high inflation, some restaurant leaders are noticing a reduction in sales or traffic, though this has been uneven across restaurant brands. A recent CNBC report indicated that at McDonald’s and Chipotle, lower-income guests were spending less and higher-income guests were visiting more often. On the other hand, brands including Starbucks, Bloomin’ Brands and Restaurant Brands International say they aren’t seeing major changes in guest spending. Regardless, it’s a good time for restaurants to focus on nurturing loyalty — particularly fine-dining and other higher-end brands that may experience more of a dip in business during an inflationary period. According to a recent survey of over 2,000 American consumers by LendingTree, half of consumers said retail, food and other loyalty programs are more important to them than ever. You can encourage consumers to make your business one of the ones they continue to visit in a rocky economy if you focus on offering special experiences — members-only dinner promotions, wine cellar tours or sommelier talks for your wine-enthusiast guests, or early access to reservations for a special event. Attract more guests who are similar to your favorite visitors by creating a referral program that offers a free appetizer or drink on their return visit, or some extra loyalty points in both accounts after a new guest signs up — it may help you bring both people back when they are looking for a place to dine together or with a larger group of friends. At a time when technology is replacing some interpersonal connections between your staff and guests, ensure that the ones you do have with guests are high-quality — remembering their names and food preferences, ensuring their payment is especially seamless, and simply welcoming them back like friends can go a long way.
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