April 8, 2022

Increase Your Restaurant’s Patronage

In our previous post, we shared research on restaurant industry patronage across the United States, including the extent consumers are patronizing restaurants, trying new restaurants and their loyalty to the new establishments they first tried during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Restaurant Industry Trends

After surveying 1,000 consumers, we discovered three segments of restaurant patrons.

#1: Social Explorers

These diners seek out new, trendy restaurants as part of their social life. They share recommendations with their community and love their reputation as being an expert.

#2: Supportive Treaters

These diners see eating out as a treat and their reward for hard work. They tend to stick to restaurants they know and love and are outwardly supportive of local establishments and their staff.

#3: Disengaged Savers

These diners often prefer to eat at home; and when they do eat out, price is the ultimate driver (it’s more important than the quality of the food).

No matter which patronage segment someone is in, nearly all of our respondents were the ones who chose which establishment they went to. Additionally, 39 percent of spouses and partners were also involved in making that decision.

While each of these segments are trying new restaurants, they are all looking for different characteristics. Understanding these differences is critical if you want new customers to discover your restaurant (and become a repeat customer).

The Importance of Online Reviews

Throughout our research, restaurant industry trends also emerged in regard to online reviews. And it was eye-opening how critical they are when someone chooses a restaurant to visit. Check out some of these stats:

  • 40 percent say reviews are somewhat important
  • 41 percent say reviews are very important
  • 12 percent say reviews are the most important thing when deciding where to dine

Therefore, it’s key that potential customers see your reviews. In fact,

  • 86 percent use Google to search for restaurant reviews
  • 42 percent use Yelp
  • 15 percent use Tripadvisor

Taking these stats into consideration is all the more reason to make sure your restaurant reviews are accurately incorporated into local Google Search results.

Key Takeaways

Customer reviews and the overall customer experience are the new currency of the restaurant industry, and Google is the leader of the pack. Therefore, invest time managing customer reviews and your online reputation. In fact, it is the most critical thing to focus on from an external communications standpoint.

Your Google Business Profile (formerly called Google My Business) can get quadruple the traffic that your website gets, which can potentially make it the most valuable piece of real estate for your business. But what does investing time into your Google Business Profile look like? Make sure to update your photos regularly, respond to reviews (both negative and positive), keep your business information current and post content that links to your website.

Different Segments, Different Characteristics

When looking at restaurant industry trends, all three segments of restaurant patrons research the establishments they want to visit in similar ways but are looking for different characteristics.

When choosing restaurants, Social Explorers prioritize new restaurants they haven’t yet tried, including new dishes and food made with fresh ingredients. They are also more likely than other segments to look for restaurants with excellent online reviews and places their friends are talking about. Other characteristics that attract this group? Restaurants that source their ingredients locally, have a social media feed filled with engaging content, and have a well-known chef.

Additionally, they take into account influencers and experts when making a decision to visit a certain restaurant. Social Explorers are more likely to look at places with excellent reviews by both established food critics and food influences on social media.

Supportive Treaters are more likely than other segments to look for restaurants with a wide range of dishes and prices because they want something for everyone in their party (especially places where their favorite dishes are always on the menu). And convenience is key. They want to visit places that are in close proximity to their home or work.

Disengaged Savers are less likely than the other two groups to prioritize any of these factors. Instead, they focus on restaurants with loyalty programs and those that offer coupons or discounts. They are significantly less likely to choose new restaurants, and those with fresh ingredients don’t attract them the way they do for Social Explorers. Things like restaurant atmosphere and staff friendliness and enthusiasm are also significantly less important to this group.

With so many ways to communicate with consumers, it can be daunting for restaurant owners to decide how and where to reach their target audience. However, it’s important to build your communication strategy based on your diners’ segment rather than trying to be everything to everyone.

The research findings conclude exactly what each of the three segments prioritizes, and once you identify your patrons as being one or more of these segments, you’ll have a much better idea of what needs to be prioritized. For those of you who don’t know which segment most of your patrons fall into, talk to your front-line staff to get a sense of what they’re seeing and hearing from customers.

Age Matters

The research also shows differences in how patrons choose restaurants based on age. Those under 30 are much more likely to choose restaurants that are in their social media fees and those with excellent reviews from social media influencers. And they also gravitate toward those that share engaging content within their social media channels. Excellent reviews are more important to those under 30, and they’re more likely to use Google in order to find those reviews.

Patrons under 40 are also more likely to use social media to discover and explore restaurants. Sixty-one percent of those age 60 and older say they never use Facebook for this purpose, compared to only 18 percent of those under 30.

Regardless of age or consumer segment, a restaurant’s website and social media presence are important to potential diners when they make the decision to visit one place over another. And everyone believes they’re both important to some degree. As you prioritize areas of opportunity, this should be at the top of the list along with your Google presence. Look at both your website and social channels from your ideal diner’s perspective. Do they include menus, pricing, locations, discounts and photos of the food? Diners don’t want to be surprised or guess what the experience will be like if they decide your restaurant is the place they want to go.

At Commit Agency, we know this is a pivotal moment for restaurants in light of the COVID-19 pandemic with an active group of patrons trying new establishments. Using social listening and other research methodologies, we know what our clients’ customers are looking for and have used that intel to optimize the brand-customer experience.

To learn more about each patron’s behaviors and get insights into the opportunities they present, check out our entire executive summary.


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Primary Research

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