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Survey Results Reveal Ways To Turn One-Off Restaurant Customers Into Repeat Guests

Restaurants are increasingly focused on boosting customer traffic as many people return to their pre-pandemic dining-out habits. But the hidden costs of one-off customers can be hefty. To get a better payoff from customer relationships, restaurants must prioritize turning visitors into loyal, repeat customers.

But how can a restaurant do this? What role do marketing messages play? Is there a better way to leverage customer data?

We partnered with Dynata to survey 1,000 American consumers to better understand what drives repeat visits at quick-service restaurants (QSRs) and what marketing efforts most effectively encourage customer loyalty.

This article covers:

  • What brings customers in for the first time, and then more times after that
  • How consumers hear from their favorite restaurants  
  • What types of marketing messages are most well-received by customers
  • How to bring customers into your first-party experience, rather than leaving them stuck in the void of third-party apps

Read on to see what respondents had to say about their restaurant marketing preferences and how effective the messages were in encouraging a repeat visit.

92% of customers visit quick service/fast casual restaurants monthly.

Our survey indicated that at least 92% of customers visit limited service restaurants at least once a month, with 22% frequenting them at least 7 times each month, showing a clear demand for quick-service options.

How do consumers choose between quick-service/fast-casual and dine-in options?

  • 47% of respondents listed a lower price point as their top reason for choosing a QSR, and 26% said their second most important reason was that QSRs offer more rewards programs and discounts than dine-in restaurants. 
  • 37% said the ability to order ahead and use curbside pickup options is the least important factor when deciding against a dine-in restaurant.

Ordering ahead and curbside pickup expanded during the pandemic as a way for operators to offer customers more options when dining in wasn’t possible. These options are becoming less pertinent now, and today’s consumers are becoming more price-conscious and deal-driven.

When it comes to deciding to visit a restaurant that customers have been to before, here’s what we found:

  • Use deals when you can: Promotions and discounts are the top factors (28%) that encourage repeat visits to restaurants, followed by using established rewards programs for discounts (17%) and personalized promotions based on order history (15%). These types of offers are opportunities to leverage your customer data and determine which promotions most effectively bring people back for more.
  • Don’t neglect food quality: 26% of respondents said they’d return to a restaurant simply because of the food itself, despite any promotions or discounts. Keep your food quality standards high to maintain loyalty.
  • Customer service still matters: Excellent customer service ranked last (13%), but this doesn’t mean restaurants are off the hook. Labor shortages and poor service harm the customer experience, and if restaurants want to win customer loyalty, they need to nail the entire dining experience.  

Read More: Customers Are Turning Away from Restaurants Facing Labor Challenges

75% of consumers enjoy hearing from their favorite restaurants.

In the digital age, we’re exposed to all sorts of marketing messages persuading us to do one thing or another. The good news is that most consumers are receptive to restaurant marketing messages, with only 21% ignoring them and 29% opting out.

However, the frequency of these messages matters:

  • 26% of respondents receive 1-2 weekly marketing messages from restaurants (outside third-party delivery apps), suggesting that some people are more selective with their opt-ins.
  • 32% say they receive 3-5 messages weekly directly from restaurants, demonstrating their interest in consistently hearing from multiple brands.
  • 18% reported getting at least 6 weekly messages, indicating that few customers are interested in receiving daily messages. 

Why do people sign up for a restaurant’s marketing messages in the first place? Most customers are in it for deals:

  • 45% opt in, knowing they’ll be rewarded for frequent visits.
  • 27% sign up for a discount on their first or future visit.
  • 10% of respondents want to receive updates on seasonal menu items.

Well-tailored marketing messages can be incredibly effective at getting customers through the door: 25% of consumers dine within a week of receiving a marketing message, while 30% order within the same month. Meanwhile, 62% of respondents are 50-100% more likely to visit a restaurant within one week of receiving a promotional offer. 

These statistics reveal an almost immediate return on investment for restaurants, highlighting the missed opportunity for repeat orders and visits among restaurants that have yet to embrace effective marketing strategies. 

Also Read: Why In-House Marketing Automation Isn’t As Hard As You Think

Use the right messaging and contact method for your customers.

Once you get someone through the door, you’re not done. Restaurants need to be mindful of how they’re engaging one-off and potential diners and focus on intentional messaging.

We explored what types of messages (beyond deals and discounts) resonate with customers and the best delivery method for these messages.

We asked respondents what they’d be interested in hearing about besides promotions and discounts — 82% of respondents reported weekly or monthly menu updates as their top reason to stay connected with a restaurant, and 43% said new store openings were their second leading interest.

Additionally, we found that Boomers (60%), Gen X (67%), Millennials (64%), and Gen Z (60%) all prefer email messages over physical mailers and text messages. Here are the most common actions people took based on the delivery method:

  • 63% save email promotions.
  • 61% of consumers use deals from email marketing as often as possible.
  • 61% of people save mailers to use at a later date.

What does all of this mean for restaurant operators?

  • Messaging and contact method are critical. Emails and mailers containing promotions help keep your restaurant relevant and top of mind for future visits.
  • Put your food at the forefront. Make customers’ mouths water and show off your seasonal or limited-time menu offerings in your marketing messages. 
  • Be selective with which updates you share via text or email. Very few respondents were interested in receiving messages about community involvement or business updates. Your social platforms or website might be more appropriate places for those messages.

“With more options available to consumers, it’s increasingly difficult for restaurants to capture customer attention and bring them back for more. However, where restaurants can gain a significant advantage and see a positive impact on their bottom line is through strategic marketing campaigns that drive repeat orders and improve brand loyalty.” –Olivier Thierry, CRO of HungerRush

By aligning your communication strategy with what customers want most — promotions, menu updates, and new store openings — you make your restaurant “sticky” with consumers and promote loyalty.

Also Read: The Unified Guest Profile Is the Future of Restaurant Customer Experience

Bridge the gap between third-party apps and restaurants. 

As third-party delivery giants, like Grubhub and Uber Eats, continually expand their reach, it’s become challenging for restaurants to collect customer data and drive orders through their first-party sites. 

Customer data is necessary to inform future marketing decisions. Every customer who doesn’t order through your native system is another missed opportunity to collect valuable customer data and establish future communication.

“The survey showed us that 39% of consumers are not using third-party delivery apps. At HungerRush, we see this as a huge market opportunity for QSR operators to bring consumers directly to their sites or mobile apps to communicate, engage, and learn about their consumers’ ordering behaviors.” –Olivier Thierry

Restaurant operators can collect valuable customer data to determine the best times to push promotions using data from marketing campaigns and first-party ordering sites. You can then create more targeted messages encouraging repeat orders and incentivizing loyalty by analyzing your customers’ past ordering behaviors and preferences. 

We found that only 18% of respondents have never made a purchase because of a text or email message from a restaurant. That means 82% have.

This statistic emphasizes the value of offering promotions to attract more customers to order on your native platform rather than on third-party apps. Restaurants can reconnect with customers on first-party ordering platforms using personalized, frequent discounts that drive repeat business.

Also Read: Bridge The Gap: Customer Experience for Restaurants On- and Off-Premise

Convert one-time customers to long-time patrons using personalized marketing messages and valuable customer data. 

In a time when customer acquisition is expensive and challenging, restaurants don’t have to try anything and everything to win customer loyalty. Our survey uncovered data-backed trends that can help your restaurant draw customers back again and again.

We found that customers enjoy staying connected with their favorite QSR brands so long as the messages include a discount, a menu update, or a new location announcement.

Understanding what messaging best resonates with your customer base is crucial to getting them in the door and wanting to come back for more. HungerRush’s powerful marketing and loyalty capabilities span all of your channels, putting customer data in your hands so you can consistently convert first-time guests to repeat visitors.

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