Consumer Trends

Chains winning with Hispanics

It’s hard to win in business, especially the restaurant business, without engaging Hispanic consumers, says Peter Filiaci, VP of strategy and insights/restaurants at Univision. That’s because the Hispanic population is growing exponentially, especially compared to non-Hispanic growth.

And that’s impacting traffic. Hispanic’s per-capita visits increased 4 percent in the last year, while non-Hispanic visits decreased 1 percent, says Univision. And three out of four of those restaurant visits are to the top 250 chains. That percentage is even higher for Spanish-speaking guests; eight out of 10 of this population’s visits are to a major chain.

To call out those chains making strides with this market, Univision announced the winners of its Trailblazers awards on Tuesday afternoon at Restaurant Leadership Conference. The awards, in partnership with Port Washington, N.Y.-based researcher NPD Group, highlight chains that are meeting the needs of Hispanic consumers and, in turn, growing their business. While the chains all won for different efforts, there’s one commonality they all share—they’ve demonstrated significant success with the Hispanic consumer. Here’s a list of the winners and their efforts:

Digital Trailblazer: Denny’s

The marketing strategy is simple, says Univision. Denny’s stays true to its position as “America’s Diner,” but makes it relevant to Hispanic diners, who account for one in four of the chain’s guests. This year, it doubled down on its digital strategies, including launching Denny’s Latino on Facebook and promoting Denny’s Latino on it’s Spanish-language website, digital ads and YouTube broadcasts.

Regional Trailblazer: Jack in the Box

Jack in the Box is deeply rooted in the West and admits that, in that market, Hispanics make up half of its consumer base. So it’s always involved the Hispanic base in its marketing efforts, placing a priority on Hispanics early on when developing menu items, messaging and outreach plans.

Grassroots Trailblazer: Starbucks

Starbucks has been inviting with its broad-based outreach, but it’s expanded its efforts to the local level. The coffee giant hosted “Noches Culturales” to promote a new beverage during a night of in-store entertainment and music. And these events helped the chain boost Hispanic traffic 8 percent.

Family-Focused Trailblazer: Chili’s Grill & Bar

The chain’s “more moments happen here” tagline hits home for this family-focused demographic. It’s seen double-digit growth in parties with kids, especially since its “Fresh Mex” messaging speaks to Hispanic parents.

Best Creative Based on Insights: McDonald’s

McDonald’s is a leader when it comes to ethnic-insights strategy. It performs and uses ongoing research and is dedicated to cross-department support of multicultural efforts. And it’s paid off. Hispanics are 28 percent more likely to say they’d revisit McDonald’s than non-Hispanics.

Best Product Innovator, Food: Carl’s Jr.

The chain used a full-blown multimedia campaign, complete with relevant talent recognizable to the Hispanic consumer base, to promote its chorizo, egg and cheese biscuit/burrito. Since, it’s seen a 19 percent increase in year-over-year morning traffic in the West.

Best Product Innovator, Beverage: Sonic

Its milkshake flavors, jalapeno chocolate and salted caramel, resonate with the Hispanic taste preferences. And to promote the flavors, Sonic has invested in relevant media with content Hispanics love, says Univision.

Share Shifter, Full-Service Restaurant: IHOP

The family-dining chain had a 0.8 percent share gain, and it’s the number one full-service restaurant in terms of Hispanic traffic growth. To empower the Spanish-speaking population, when the chain redesigned its menu about a year ago, it added more pictures to make it easier for consumers who don’t speak English.

Share Shifter, Quick-Service Restaurant: Chipotle

The fast casual gained half a share point among Hispanics. Some of its Westward expansion has paid off, but its “cultivated thought” marketing program also has been inclusive of Hispanics. In fact, three new Latino artists were added to the program this year.

Newcomer of the Year: Papa John’s

The brand’s investment in marketing to Hispanic customers has paid off. For Hispanics, dollars grew 43 percent, traffic rose 18 percent, average-eater checks went up $1.50 and items per eater moved from 2.07 to 2.25. It’s put a Spanish-language strategy in place, but the message hasn’t had to change, says CEO John Schnatter. Papa John’s goal of bringing family and friends together resonates with Hispanics, who are very focused on getting together with family. Similarly, Papa John’s didn’t have to change any of its menu items, it only had to communicate in a way that Hispanics better understood in order to build Hispanic consumers’ confidence in the brand.

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