Since the beginning of 2016, restaurant visits have declined by 1%. This decline is slow, but steady, and has big implications for those in the restaurant industry.
Predictably, one of the top reasons cited for the decline is cost. Since the Great Recession, consumers are still being careful about where and how they spend their money.
For many Americans, the idea of eating at a restaurant is too expensive to consider, especially when compared to the budget-friendly option of cooking and eating at home.
In order to compete and ease consumers' minds about the cost of eating out, restaurant managers and marketers need to emphasize the value of eating at restaurants, and strive to make the entire dining experience as stress-free, pleasant, and relaxing as possible.
Here are some suggestions for responding to the recent decline in restaurant dining:
Offer your customers something they can't get at home.
Most of your customers are capable of cooking something reasonably enjoyable for themselves and their families to eat. With 82% of all meals now being eaten at home, it's clear that restaurants need to start offering their customers something more than just delicious food.
Spend some time thinking about the experience of dining in your restaurant: Do your customers feel rushed? Are your employees giving their all on the customer service front? Is it obvious to customers when you're trying to turn their table or upsell them?
Your customers are probably most comfortable at home - and that's not a good thing for you! Make both your physical space and the dining experience you offer as welcoming and comfortable as possible. Make sure your seats are comfortable and not too close together, offer free Wi-Fi, provide clean amenities, and offer some entertainment for restless children to give their harried parents a break!
Participate in your community.
Whether you own an independent small restaurant or manage one location of a large chain, it is important for your business to be a part of the community where your customers live. Work with local non-profits to host fundraisers, offer discounts for civil servants, and sponsor a local little league team. These are all great ways to draw customers in and build your reputation within your community, increasing the odds that when people do want to spend their hard-earned money on a meal out, they'll think of you first!
Offer a customer loyalty program.
This is another way to give your customers an incentive to dine with you. Customer loyalty programs can take many forms - you can reward your frequent guests with discounts, free desserts, merchandise, or more!
Utilize social media and e-mail marketing can help give your restaurant a personal touch, and allow you to connect with your guests in a variety of ways. You can get the word out about specials and promotions, and remain in the minds of your guests through targeted digital marketing efforts.