Ray of sunshine for gloomy QSR sales

Mark Shelley
Vice President of QSR Business Development

There’s no denying that news has been gloomy for those operating in the QSR casual dining space, as they’ve seen market share dwindle and sales decline. But in a recent survey of 1,000 U.S. adults, YA found some surprising data on the kinds of customers most likely to step up to the counter (or order online), and the types of offers and promotions that are most likely to incent them to become loyal, frequent eaters.

Highly effective: discounts and refer-a-friend

As an industry-leading promotional marketing firm with QSRs as one of our vertical client markets, the YA team is highly aware of the competitive headwinds faced by many of our top clients. We have been major players in this space for some time, and that’s why we invest in the kind of proactive thought leadership this research provides. What we learned from this study is that it’s clear that restaurants making discount offers part of their core marketing outreach are able to increase loyalty and word-of-mouth referrals. And getting those new customers in the door is the first step in creating long-term brand advocates.

Here’s how it plays out: More than 76 percent of those surveyed said they’d try a QSR they’d never been to if it offered a discount on their current order, and 69 percent said they’d be likely to try a QSR to get a discount on a future order. In addition, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) said they’d visit a restaurant new to them if they received a “refer-a-friend” discount.

The secret to engaging Millennials

Having a loyalty program that includes a multi-touch communication plan/communications calendar, especially one that integrates Refer-A-Friend programs, is an important part of any integrated marketing initiative. It’s an effort that’s especially welcome by Millennials, who like to post and talk about themselves, and who especially like to be rewarded for those behaviors. When you give the customer a reason to come back by offering them something on the next trip, you’ve made valuable inroads in establishing their choice of your restaurant as a “habit.” 

Appetite for apps

The survey also shows missed opportunity when it comes to mobile applications (Apps) that offer QSR deals. While just over one-quarter (28 percent) of respondents said they had at least one QSR App on their mobile device, nearly half (43 percent) said a QSR App would incent them to visit a restaurant more often. And of those who do have an App, the highest percentage of respondents (31 percent) say they take advantage of offers 10 times or more per year. We found that younger consumers and those who have higher household incomes are the heaviest users of Apps.

This is an area where YA can help. We have full-service, integrated IT products, even including phojis, which are clickable, actionable emojis. If you want to reach younger consumers with engaging content and offers that speak to where they are right now, it’s time to talk to YA.

What to do next

If you’re struggling to find the right answer to gain customer loyalty, we can help you look beyond simple discount programs, evaluate your current loyalty program and help you formulate a plan to turn even first-time customers into loyal brand advocates who take action, buy more and spread the word, please contact me to begin the conversation.

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