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Research: Market across eating occasions to reach Hispanics

hispanic family fine dining

Consumer spending among Hispanics is increasing, and according to recent data, eating away from home is a big part of that overall trend. But to capture this valuable customer base, it’s important to recognize not just that they’re spending, but also to identify when.

Consumption patterns for Hispanics tend to skew toward morning meals and snacking in the afternoon and late-night hours. That doesn’t mean restaurant operators should give up trying to attract Hispanic customers for dinner, but it does require a two-pronged approach, according to Peter Filiaci, vice president of strategy & insights for restaurants at Univision.

Having distinct marketing strategies—one that focuses on developed dayparts and the other on underperforming eating occasions—will increase opportunities for appealing to these customers.

Rise and shine

Univision’s recent QSR Landscape Study shows that Hispanics devote a greater share of their QSR visits to the breakfast daypart than do non-Hispanics (19 percent of traffic versus 15 percent of traffic). This gives chains a major chance for improving on traffic that’s already strong and growing. 

During the week, offering convenient items before work hours can be beneficial, while a focus on leisurely, family-focused breakfasts on the weekends can appeal to Hispanic diners. Filiaci says that full-service chains such as Denny’s and IHOP are seeing strong results from marketing to Hispanic customers, mainly due to generating weekend breakfast traffic.

Snack time

The significant amount of afternoon and late-night snacking among Hispanic consumers can’t be ignored. This trend offers an opportunity to create additional visits beyond the traditional three meals, especially at QSRs where Hispanic customers are more frequent visitors than non-Hispanics. In fact, the Univision study indicates that Hispanics devote twice as much of their QSR traffic to late-night snacking compared to non-Hispanics (8 percent of visits versus 4 percent).

“The snacking dayparts may be driven by the importance Hispanics place on drinks and desserts,” Filiaci said. “For QSRs, it’s more about coffee, soft drinks and indulgent treats, while the casual-dining chains benefit from Hispanics being more likely to visit at happy hour.”

Chains such as Sonic and Applebee’s have identified these consumption patterns, he says, and worked to communicate with those customers about offerings that would appeal to them specifically.

Boosting performance

Even with higher traffic during breakfast and snack times, operators shouldn’t ignore dinner daypart opportunities, especially since the checks for Hispanic customers are usually higher and their party sizes often larger.

Hispanic customers still place a great deal of value on home-cooked family dinners, and that may be an entry point for some operators. “As food quality and freshness become even stronger trends in the industry, this may be a way for [operators] to differentiate themselves and generate some Hispanic traffic growth in the dinner daypart,” says Filiaci. “Better, fresher food becomes a more legitimate alternative to home-cooked meals.”

Operators should also consider that Hispanics are much more likely than non-Hispanics to say that they “look for healthier food alternatives for children and family” (65 percent versus 40 percent) and “avoid foods that are overly processed” (59 percent versus 39 percent).

Univision’s research also shows that Hispanics are more likely than other ethnic groups to cite food quality as a traffic driver. Emphasizing fresh, quality ingredients, along with offering variety, can entice more Hispanics to make the “family dinner” one that’s eaten away from home.

Another key marketing message should be the social advantages, since Hispanics are more likely to choose a restaurant based on its ability to serve larger parties. “Spending time with family and friends comes up consistently with Hispanic respondents, whether in a QSR or casual dining context,” says Filiaci. “So letting the consumer know they will be able to enjoy a welcoming and leisurely experience could be quite effective.”

This post is sponsored by Univision Communications, Inc.

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