Social media recommendations outranks restaurant promotions and group discount websites in influencing full-service restaurant choice
TORONTO, January 30, 2013 – After taking a hit in business during the economic downturn over the past four years, 2013 looks to be a strong year for the foodservice industry in Canada, with full-service restaurants (FSRs) leading the charge. According to a new report Full-Service Dining: How to Win Customers Back by global information company The NPD Group, the key to the success of FSRs this year will be the intensity of their social media presence.
One-third of FSR visitors (35 per cent) say that word-of-mouth recommendations or feedback shared on social media sites influences their decisions on where to eat. This compares to only 28 per cent who look for restaurant promotions or other deals made available on group discount websites.
“Restaurateurs should never underestimate the power of word-of-mouth, a critical factor in the highly competitive restaurant industry,” said Robert Carter, executive director of Foodservice at The NPD Group. “That being said, when we talk about social media recommendations it’s less about restaurants getting ‘Likes’ on Facebook and more about engaging and interacting with your customers. Canadians want to know that when they’re going out to eat, they’re getting value for their money and the quickest way to get this vote of confidence is through their peer networks online.”
While positive online recommendations can result in significant traffic, the overall dining experience and quality of the meal remain vital to guaranteeing return visits, according to the NPD foodservice report. In fact, 73 per cent of Canadians who visited FSRs say they look for the full dining experience when choosing a FSR. This includes the quality of the food, the service and the atmosphere. Further, 77 per cent expect higher quality food at FSRs compared to meals they can get at quick service restaurants (QSRs).
“Social media helps get customers in the door, but FSRs need to focus on delivering a memorable experience to generate repeat business,” continued Carter. “Based on our ongoing research, these factors prove more important than any pricing promotion.”
Despite a promising growth outlook for the foodservice industry in 2013, full-service traffic still lags compared to 2008 levels. NPD’s CREST®, which continuously tracks how consumers use restaurants and other foodservice outlets, revealed that while Canadian full-service dining saw 1.66 billion visits in 2012 – an increase of three per cent versus 2011 – annual visits still fall well below the record traffic achieved in 2008 (1.76 billion visits).
From March 12 to June 20, 2012, The NPD Group conducted an online survey of 9,577 respondents who visited a full-service restaurant within the past three months, ages 18-64, English and French.