The competition to get customers in the door is intensifying, with both delivery and home cooking eating into restaurant visits. Developing more limited-time offers at a faster clip is one way operators are luring consumers. Technomic reports that the number of LTOs launched by the Top 500 chain restaurants and convenience stores has increased 64% over the last five years.
While LTOs have an impact, Technomic’s Consumer Brand Metrics survey also reveals that new flavors, interesting menu items and unique experiences can give chains a competitive edge in getting customers in the door. But age, gender, ethnicity and other variables come into play too. Click through to find out what motivates consumers to go out for a meal at both full-service and limited-service chains.
1. New menu items tempt families
Parents with children under 18 place a high importance on new and exciting menu items in patronizing one restaurant over another. Of those surveyed, 79% cited menu innovation as impacting their dining decision at a full-service chain, and 69% said so for limited-service restaurants. Panda Express was one concept singled out in the LSR space, with one respondent saying of the chain, “They’re always coming out with new dishes and they’re always tasty.” Olive Garden was a favorite full-service example: “The food is always good, with new dishes introduced frequently.”
2. Millennials seek novelty
Compared to other age groups, millennials are most actively looking for new flavors and menu introductions: 73% say this is an important attribute for visiting full-service restaurants, and 70% say so for limited-service concepts. When analyzed by ethnicity, African-Americans were most likely to seek novel items at full-service places (74%), with Hispanics close behind at 72%. LSR figures are similar at 71% and 69%, respectively.
From the comments received, Burger King and White Castle stand out for the increased number, pace and excitement of menu introductions. A BK customer is quoted as saying, “They have … lately come up with some unique new items which are fabulously delicious,” and of White Castle: “… love the new items that are brought through quite regularly now.”
3. LTOs carry less weight
Limited-time offers rate highest with millennials too, but they don’t have as much of an impact on dining decisions as the overall addition of new flavors. Only 55% say that LTOs are key to patronizing a full-service restaurant; 51% say so for limited-service concepts. The importance of FSR promotions varies a bit for different ethnic groups: African-Americans put the most stock in LTOs at 58%, followed by Asians at 56%.
Nevertheless, comments by consumers indicate that they are attracted by deals on new dishes. Maggiano’s Little Italy was praised for having “good tasting food with nice special offers,” while Captain D’s Seafood Kitchen was called out for “always offering new itemsat a great price as well as coupon discounts.”
4. Change it up for female consumers
Women find new menu items more appealing than men, especially at FSRs. Nearly 70% of female respondents say the introduction of innovative dishes is important to selecting a full-service restaurant, compared to 61% of men. The numbers drop lower for limited-service concepts with their more limited menus: 65% of women and 59% of men are drawn by new items. In fact, some LSRs were criticized with comments such as “could use some new items” and “no new items on the menu.”