Online Marketing Driving One Third of New Restaurant Visits

Quick-service restaurants experiencing greatest return

TORONTO, July 31, 2012 – Online marketing, typically delivered via a website or smartphone application, is the force behind 33 per cent of first-time restaurant visits in Canada. According to CREST®, a recent study from leading market research company The NPD Group that rigorously tracks the Foodservice industry, this triples the number of new visits resulting from other forms of marketing (10 per cent). Across establishments, quick-service restaurants (QSRs) benefit from online marketing most, which drives 60 per cent of their business.

As online marketers develop applications to target new and existing clientele, those who zero in on specific strategies are more likely to reap the rewards. The study shows that Canadians are most influenced by applications that feature a deal or special offer (33 per cent), a recommendation or review (30 per cent) or a loyalty program (19 per cent), and will gravitate to these values.

“With Canada coming out of recession and consumers once again willing to spend at restaurants, operators are taking advantage of online marketing to successfully ramp up their businesses and improve their visibility,” said Robert Carter, executive director of Foodservice at The NPD Group. “Complementing this is the country’s collective reliance on word-of-mouth promotion, which becomes progressively habitual as the world of social media evolves.”

Restaurant locator applications are also resonating with consumers and have influenced the dining choices of 17 per cent of Canadians. Appropriately, this is reflected in the decision of many Canadian telecommunication service providers to pre-load their phones with location-based applications that have segments dedicated entirely to restaurants in the user’s surrounding area.

Though online marketing is an effective approach for Canadian establishments hoping to attract new customers, only three per cent of overall visits and four per cent of spend are influenced by it. Americans, however, are seeing greater returns. In the United States, these statistics double to six per cent and eight per cent respectively.

“There is an opportunity for Canadian restaurateurs to grow their businesses and online marketing, a very affordable method of promotion, should remain part of this plan,” continued Carter. “Since smartphone applications are becoming a fundamental tool for consumers and the web remains a leading resource, marketing efforts in these spaces that will stimulate more than an initial trial should be a point of focus.”

Despite low percentages in overall visits and spend in Canada, the influence of online marketing on restaurant demand is expected to increase. As the existing array of social media platforms becomes increasingly sophisticated and new ones are introduced to the market, online marketing will need to be a central element in an overarching strategy for businesses to be successful in this industry.

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