5 Restaurant Guest Perspectives From Q1

In a May 7 webinar, Technomic’s director of research and insights highlights fresh industry data.

Selective focus of woman hand with credit card which she is a receipt bill food and drink for payment by credit card in the table at restaurant
In a webinar, Technomic highlighted factors impacting restaurant consumer sentiment.

From thoughts on headwinds like tipping fatigue and menu price inflation to the almighty power of craveworthy foods, Technomic shared consumers’ perspectives in its “State of the U.S. Restaurant Guest” webinar.

Robert Byrne, the research firm’s director of research and insights, led the conversation, which took place on Tuesday, May 7. Here are a few key takeaways for operators:

  1. Your menu prices matter, but so does your brand’s identity. Technomic’s research shows that 68% of the 28,000 consumers it surveyed in Q1 2024 pay close attention to menu prices to find the best value and 60% compare prices before deciding what to buy. Yet, 57% say it’s worth it to pay a little more for name-brand foods and beverages. “Price in and of itself, it’s never the top decision driver for consumers,” says Byrne. “ … They’re actually more likely to be swayed by the promise of quality. … To push the true meaning of value, be sure your message is focused on quality of care and quality of experience; these things never go out of style.”
  2. “Lean into the crave,” says Byrne. Comfort food is a good bet in attracting consumers, he suggests, but consumers also can’t crave something they have never tried. So, rather than striving for some over-the-top social media fad, go for foolproof basics (think cheese, potatoes and indulgence, he suggests).
  3. Don’t miss non-digital value touchpoints. While some chains are hyperfocused on delivering value to customers who use their apps, not all generations are as eager (or able) to make that download. Other chains have found success with alternate brand-specific programs. Byrne mentioned Olive Garden’s e-club, 7 Brew’s loyalty program—in which a customer provides their phone number at checkout—and Cooper’s Hawk Wine Club as examples. The bottom line? Don’t forget non-digital guests when promoting your brand’s value.
  4.  Don’t overlook ambiance. Even in the drive-thru, ambiance matters, Byrne briefly pointed out. “Just because I’m not getting out of my car doesn’t mean that I’m not taking in what your restaurant has to offer visually,” he says, mentioning greenery maintenance, speakers and screens, among other considerations.
  5. Beware of tipping fatigue, particularly when requesting tips before service is provided. In Q1 of 2024, Technomic surveyed 1,000 consumers ages 18-34 and found that most (78%) do not tip at QSRs. Twelve percent expressed that they tip and are “happy to do so” while 10% say they leave a tip but are not happy about it.

Technomic, part of the Informa Connect family, is set to share even more perspectives later this month in a featured session—”Journey to 2030 – Forecasting the Future of Foodservice”—at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 19, at the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago.

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