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Chain LeaderEditorial Archives2005 — October 15 — Exclusive Research

Driving Traffic: By the Numbers
Primary research reveals the most successful methods operators use for growing guest counts.

Source: Reed Research Group/chain Leader, 2005 Driving Traffic

Click to view additional research

More butts in the seats. It’s one of chain restaurant operators’ ongoing goals. With the help of Reed Research Group, Chain Leader found out how operators try to attract more customer visits and what tactics really work.

The Driving Traffic research was designed to quantify the effectiveness of the many methods restaurant companies use to build guest counts. The study looked at the methods they use and their goals and results. More importantly, it tallied which methods are the most successful. The survey also asked about how operators’ supplier partners have helped in driving customer traffic.

Results come from phone interviews with 163 chain executives, primarily vice president- and director-level titles in operations and marketing, each from a different company.

Advertising Age
A vast majority, 92 percent, of the operators surveyed say they use some form of advertising, but different types of concepts are likely to use different ways of advertising. For example, 81.3 percent of all respondents who use advertising say they display signs or banners on or in the restaurant, but 92.5 percent of those with more than 100 units do and 77.3 percent of those with 100 or fewer units use signs or banners. Fast-food operators were most likely to use such signage (94.3 percent), followed by fast casual (85.3 percent) and finally full service (68.3 percent).

Fully 73.6 percent of quick-service operators who utilize advertising to drive traffic use television; 55.9 percent of fast-casual and 55.6 percent of full-service operators who advertise use TV.

Larger chains are more apt to use outdoor/billboard advertising: 82.5 percent of those working in chains with more than 100 units vs. 56.4 percent in companies with 100 units or less.

Advertising also was most often named operators’ most effective method of growing customer counts. 20.9 percent of respondents said TV advertising was most successful, and 12.9 percent, newspaper ads or inserts. In total, 48.5 percent of respondents named some form of advertising.

Local Store Efforts
Community involvement is also common, with 90.2 percent of respondents using some form to drive traffic. 98.0 percent of those support charitable organizations; 91.8 percent work with community organizations like the chamber of commerce; and 89.1 percent use neighborhood marketing.

In fact, 12.9 percent of all the respondents said that neighborhood marketing is their most effective way to increase customer visits. 22.1 percent of operators named some form of community involvement as their most successful method.

Price and Product
67.5 percent of respondents use price promotions to drive traffic. Of those, 82.7 percent use direct-mail fliers or coupons; 64.5 percent use special discounts for bundling or upsizing; and 56.4 percent use newspaper inserts. Both bundling and newspaper inserts were more prevalent among quick-service operators using price promotions (bundling: 87.5 percent; inserts: 82.5 percent).

Of full-service operators who say they do some form of promotion, 63.6 percent use beverage or alcohol promotions to increase customer counts.

The lion’s share of operators (89.6 percent) make menu changes to drive traffic. Of those, 99.3 percent add new items; 93.2 percent add more healthful items; 87.7 percent feature special menu promotions; and 54.1 percent add recognizable consumer brands. Fast-food operators were the most likely to feature menu promotions (95.7 percent).

Only one operator surveyed named a price promotion as the most effective method of driving traffic; and 12 operators, or 7.4 percent of respondents, indicated that a menu change or update was the most effective.

Service and Style Standards
Almost all of the operators said they try to improve service to drive guest visits. Fully 95.1 percent said they increase speed of service (in fact, 97.5 percent of those who operate 100 units or less); 94.5 percent improve the accuracy of orders; and 90.2 percent train their servers to invite customers back. But when asked about their most successful methods, only 9.2 percent of operators named a service change or improvement as the most effective.

While 97.7 percent of respondents whose companies operate more than 100 units say they update the look of the restaurant, 89.1 percent of chains with 100 or fewer units change the decor to help drive traffic. However only three operators, less than

2 percent, named this as their most successful method of driving traffic.

Survey Says...
Operators were asked to share the goals behind their most successful method of driving traffic. 60.7 percent said they wanted to increase visits by frequent diners; 46.0 percent, attract more of a current demographic; 42.3 percent, attract a new demographic; and 35 percent, increase customer counts during a specific daypart. Interestingly, 4.9 percent of respondents said they had no specific goals in mind.

A majority of operators, 68.7 percent, said their most effective method led to an increase in traffic, but 13.5 percent said their efforts had no effect on customer counts.

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