A lot has been written about what influences a guest’s choice on where to eat. But what influences your guests’ perceptions of your brand?
Catapult recently did a study exploring the differences between what drives guests to make a decision to eat at a quick serve or fast casual restaurant versus what makes them loyal to their favorite restaurant brands. The results may not surprise you, but they may cause you to think twice about how to attract more guests to your restaurant.
The study found that brand selection is driven primarily by price, the taste of the food and how satisfying the meal is. But when the researchers explored what actually drives brand preference, it gets more complicated.
Attributes like taste and price were replaced by deeper, more complex desires like a craving for traditional flavors or a trendy atmosphere. In other words, brand loyalty is influenced more by emotion than logic.
Millennials want more
The research revealed that Millennials have a more complex set of values than older diners. Because they came of age in an experience-based culture their expectations for a more original and satisfying customer experience are greater than other age groups. That may explain why they are driven to repeatedly try new things. The research found that QSRs need to dial up the “experience and experiment factor” to drive loyalty among Millennials.
The research uncovered several key insights and recommendations QSRs and fast casual restaurants must employ:
- To drive loyalty, especially among Millennials, your brand must move beyond the food to find the unique emotion of eating at your restaurants.
- Innovation must become a cornerstone of your menu, your staff training and your organization.
- You must develop value-added content to enhance the customer experience.
Respondents were first asked what they care about most when they are choosing a restaurant for lunch or dinner. No surprise here: Respondents ranked type of food, affordability and style of food as the top drivers of their dining decisions.
But then respondents were asked to rank their favorite brands and a list of attributes that influence their decision making when choosing a restaurant.
Those results were more telling.
The Catapult study revealed that the drivers of brand preference don’t always align with the brand attributes consumers value the most. Consumers were more likely to consider the restaurant’s atmosphere and the taste of the food as the biggest drivers behind brand preference.
It also showed a noticeable difference between what diners are looking for at lunch compared to dinner. For lunch, they focused more on the food – things like taste and variety of offerings. When considering dinner options, consumers are looking for new experiences that are growing in popularity and are trendy among their peers. Across both meals, locally-sourced food options were the fourth-most popular decision drivers.
The Next Steps
There are a number of takeaways that you can look into in order to drive brand preference. The main one is that diners today are looking for more than just a great meal – they want an enjoyable experience, and your restaurant needs to be more than just a functional option.
Thinking about everything from your menu to your staff and even the layout of your restaurant can positively impact your customers’ experience and drive stronger brand preference. At the same time, don’t forget that for many consumers affordability is a top consideration. Make sure that both the experience and the food you offer feel like they are a fair value for your customers.