Picture a couple, Hank and Sarah: late 20s, no kids. “Dinks” if you will.
They’ve been together a while but have just gotten married and bought a house. The honeymoon’s over, and with this new phase in their lives comes the glorious adventure of … shared expenses!
They’ve got stable jobs, but the economy’s anything but. Compounding that uncertainty is the high cost of filling up the tank.
$4 a gallon prices have already hit some U.S. cities, and with the warming weather driving fuel consumption, higher fuel costs are expected in the coming months.
Hank and Sarah may be young, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to eat out every meal (much as they would like to). How do restaurateurs get couples like this one out of their cozy cocoon, onto the road, and into the dining room?
That’s one question we at Summit wanted to answer with our Food & Fuel survey. Late last year, we conducted an extensive research project to find out what makes customers choose to dine out despite high fuel prices. We’re exploring the results all week on this blog. We’ve also released them bundled as a whitepaper. We hope our hard work will pay off by informing restaurant owners and marketers looking at escalating gas prices and wondering how to send messages that will resonate.
Yesterday we showed that high fuel prices do indeed make customers stop and think before gassing up and going out. 72% of survey respondents said that sustained periods of $4+/gallon gas prices will make them less likely to choose a restaurant over the family dinner table.
But, apart from the price of gas, what’s the biggest factor in a customer’s decision to eat out?
When we removed the context of high gas prices, we found that the choice of where to eat out is primarily driven by “previous positive experience.” This is not entirely surprising.
However, when pressed to answer the question given a $4+/gallon scenario, a gender difference emerged. And that brings us to…
F&F Finding No. 2: In a $4-per-gallon economy, men and women differ in dining out decision making.
Given the high-fuel factor, 46% of men still chose “previous positive experience,” making it the most popular driver for guys.
But among women, the highest-ranking answer, at 40%, was “availability of a coupon or discount.”
Guess who, in a family or couple situation, usually makes the decision on dining out? (Hint: it’s not the man.)
As fellows like Hank know, 75% of dining-out decisions are made by women. Further complicating the matter, when it comes to choosing where to go, it’s not just deals and discounts determining the choice. 54% of moms in the survey reported that they turn to third-party blogs or customer review websites when choosing restaurants.
- • Insight: While for the men in our study dining out is a factor of loyalty, for the women, who assume a greater share of discretionary spending, value is key in the context of $4+ gasoline.
- • Insight: Also, the authority of friend and expert endorsements are important. And that brings us back full circle: a coupon may drive trial by a few, but it’s recommendations based on positive experience that drive both trial and loyalty. (Technology can be on your side in this equation.)
- • Takeaway: Ask yourself, How are you encouraging your customers – in fun and engaging ways – to share their positive experiences with the widest possible audience?
Hint: Merely having your servers ask your customers “How was everything tonight?” is not enough. Social media and online customer review sites can work to your advantage in driving endorsements, but only if you are delivering that great experience first.
Stay tuned for more research-driven insights from our Food & Fuel survey. We’ll be here all week. In the meantime, you can download the whitepaper to read over lunch.
Want help reaching the Hanks & Sarahs in your neighborhood? Call us now at 1-(800)-843-7347.
Other Food & Fuel Posts:
Part 1: How Do High Gas Prices Affect Dining Out?
Part 3: Parents Not Impressed by Kids-Eat-Free Deals
Part 4: Happy Hour Makes Young People Happy
Part 5: Conclusion: Age Matters and Local Drives
Authored by Jason Harper, Manager of Interactive Strategy at Summit Marketing. Follow us @SummitSocial.