What types of restaurants are popping into consumers’ minds when they want to dine out for a special occasion, whether it’s for a birthday, anniversary or holiday?
Today, diners seem to be seeking out polished and upscale casual-dining chains that offer crowd-pleasing menus—from family-style Italian to contemporary American fare, according to Technomic's Consumer Brand Metrics ongoing study of consumer attitudes. Strong adult beverage programs are also central to special occasions, judging by the leading chains.
Here are the top five restaurant chains that consumers visit the most for special occasions, ranked from fifth to first.
5. Bonefish Grill
Two-fifths of consumers (40.3%) who recently visited Bonefish Grill did so for a special occasion. Over a quarter of these occasions were birthdays, while about a tenth were dates, family nights out, a meal with friends or a treat for someone in the dining party.
4. Seasons 52
Over two-fifths of recent Seasons 52 customers (42.3%) say they were dining out for a special reason. A quarter of these special occasions were birthdays, and a tenth were dates, anniversaries, meals to connect with friends or just a meal to treat someone in the dining party.
3. The Cheesecake Factory
Just edging out Seasons 52 for special occasion visits, 42.4% of recent diners at The Cheesecake Factory were also celebrating a special occasion. A third of these diners were celebrating a birthday, which is the highest percentage of recent birthday occasions measured of any of the chains topping this list.
2. The Capital Grille
Nearly half of recent diners (48.9%) at The Capital Grille were celebrating a special occasion. About a fifth of these diners were celebrating a birthday, and nearly as many were there for an anniversary.
This is the highest percentage of diners celebrating an anniversary on their recent visit out of any chain measured, indicating that The Capital Grille is top of mind for romantic occasions.
1. Maggiano's Little Italy
Half of recent customers (49.7%) at Maggiano’s Little Italy were there for a special occasion. Of these special occasion visits, about a quarter of them were for a birthday, and about a tenth of them were for a date or an anniversary. A little under a tenth were there to reconnect with a friend or as a treat for someone in the dining party.