Since the start of the pandemic, we have seen huge shifts in diner behaviours and preferences. Outdoor dining, takeout, third-party delivery applications and contactless technology have all had a profound shift on how restaurants operate today.
2023 is set to be an even more significant year for restaurateurs, as a potential economic downturn threatens to change customer behaviours even further. With wages rising, food prices soaring, staff shortages becoming an increasingly challenging issue and the overall impact of inflation affecting profit margins, restaurant owners must focus on meeting customer expectations.
So what can we expect from customer behaviours in 2023? In this blog, we summarize the What Diners Want report from TouchBistro, which surveyed more than 2,600 diners from across the US and Canada in an effort to understand what today’s diners really want - including how they choose restaurants, their current dining habits, major decision-makers, and the top deal-breakers.
Here are some of the top findings, which will help you to better navigate current challenges, anticipate upcoming customer trends and build a restaurant inventory strategy that maximizes profit margins in 2023.
What diners are looking for:
Dine-in is back
After takeout and delivery sales peaked during the pandemic across the US and Canada, the report found that dining in is back. In fact, 44 percent of diners reported that they are currently dining out at least once a week or more, and 78 percent said they dine out at least once a month or more. In contrast, just 27 percent are getting takeout or delivery at least once a week.
Quality trumps everything
Quality was the top priority for those dining in, with two-thirds of diners ranking the quality of food as the most important factor when dining. This was followed by price, customer service and hygiene.
Pickup is the preferred takeout option
For those that do prefer takeout, pickup is the preferred option due to the high delivery fees. 31 percent of American diners and 41 percent of Canadian diners said that pickup was their preferred way to enjoy takeout.
Young diners prefer to order online
While 38 percent of customers prefer to order over the phone and 33 percent directly through a restaurant’s website, these two methods are overwhelmingly preferred by older generations. 34 percent of Gen X diners reported that they prefer to order takeout via a third-party app.
Local wins the race
When it comes to the type of restaurants diners are visiting, nearly two-thirds of diners (63 percent) head to local, independent restaurants over chains or franchises. However, this trend is more pronounced among older generations, with almost three-quarters (70 percent) of Boomers seeking out local restaurants, but less than half of Gen Z diners doing the same.
Customer loyalty is a huge opportunity
The report found that the majority of diners prefer to revisit their favorite spots more frequently over trying brand new restaurants. In fact, 35 percent of Americans and 40 percent of Canadians said they rarely, if ever, try a new restaurant they’ve never been to before.
How diners decide where to eat
The type of food offered is a key factor
Unsurprisingly, the majority of diners (72 percent) choose where they want to dine in based on what kind of food they want to eat. In fact, for three-quarters of Millennials, Gen Xers, and Boomers, the type of food a restaurant offers is the number one deciding factor.
Recommendations, social media and reviews are critical
When it comes to trying brand new restaurants, recommendations go a long way. 86 percent of diners said they were convinced to try a restaurant they’ve never been to before based entirely on the recommendations of family or a significant other, while 81 percent said they were swayed solely by the recommendation of a friend or co-worker. Meanwhile, 24 percent of total diners say that online reviews influence where they decide to eat and 14 percent say social media is a deciding factor.
Locally sourced ingredients are still popular
A huge 78 percent of American diners and 80 percent of Canadian diners said that locally sourced ingredients were very likely or somewhat likely to influence their decision to choose a specific restaurant.
Plant-based options are also becoming increasingly important
A third of diners (34 percent) also reported that a restaurant offering vegetarian food was very likely or somewhat likely to influence their decision to eat there.
Online menus are important
In addition, the report found that online menus are critical to landing new customers. Before deciding on a new restaurant, 84 percent of diners reported checking a restaurant’s menu online and 79 percent said they look at the restaurant’s website.
What deters diners from restaurants?
Diners are “somewhat” sensitive to price hikes
With inflation impacting both businesses and consumers alike, the report found that diners are “somewhat” sensitive to price hikes. While only one-in-five diners said their dining decisions would be significantly impacted by menu price increases, the majority of diners (46 percent) said menu price increases would somewhat influence their dining decisions.
Negative feedback is a deal breaker
More than half (58 percent) of diners admit that they have decided to skip a restaurant due to negative feedback.
Diners are becoming more impatient
While it is not one of the top deterrents, a long wait time can quickly turn diners away. 55 percent of American diners and 57 percent of Canadian diners said that a table wait time longer than 30 minutes would deter them from going to a restaurant. This is a major increase from 2017, when just 32 percent of diners said they would be deterred from visiting a restaurant with a wait time of 30 minutes or more.
How diners engage with restaurants
Loyalty programs drive huge engagement
Among those who are part of loyalty programs, one-third (32 percent) of diners in the US and Canada say they engage with these programs weekly or more often. This level of engagement is even more pronounced among those who order out, with more than half of Americans (58 percent) and Canadians (56 percent) who order takeout weekly or more often engaging with loyalty programs at least once a week.
Email is a profound engagement tool
Some 50 percent of diners report that email is their preferred way to stay in touch with restaurants. However, while diners overwhelmingly prefer email to other communication channels, they don’t want to see their inboxes flooded. Only one in-three Americans (32 percent) and just one-in-five Canadians (21 percent) want to hear from a restaurant on a weekly basis.
Are you interested in discussing these diner trends in further detail or want to explore how they could impact your restaurant inventory strategy over the coming year? Get in touch with Sculpture Hospitality today. Our team of restaurant inventory management specialists would love to answer any questions that you may have.