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National Restaurant Association - Familiarity leads to patronage, Hispanic consumer study finds

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Familiarity leads to patronage, Hispanic consumer study finds

Restaurant companies are getting better at targeting marketing and ad campaigns to Hispanic diners, but there is room for growth, a new study has found.

According to a study commissioned by Hispanic media company Univision Inc. and conducted by Burke Marketing Research, Hispanic Americans frequenting casual-dining restaurants chose to dine at such brands as Red Lobster, Outback and Olive Garden because those companies were more familiar to them and they felt their patronage of those businesses was appreciated, said Peter Filiaci, Univision’s vice president of strategy and insights.

“There is more opportunity for casual-dining chains to reach out and engage [Hispanic customers] and make them feel welcome,” he said. The study, released late last month, looked at the responses of 1,250 Hispanic consumers versus 1,250 non-Hispanic consumers to gauge and compare attitudes and purchasing behaviors around the country.

Filiaci shared the results of the study during an education session on winning over the Hispanic consumer at this year’s NRA Show, noting that lack of familiarity with a new restaurant or brand may keep Hispanic customers from frequenting it.

“Fully 50 percent of respondents said the biggest barrier for them is they didn’t know about the brand,” he said. “That was the reason they weren’t visiting those chains. Conversely, for non-Hispanics, the biggest reasons were price, value, location and convenience.”

The study found that restaurant visits by Hispanics were predicated more on the social experience than value and convenience, which were more important to the non-Hispanic group, he said.

“It’s less about price and convenience on the Hispanic side and much more about knowing that family is welcome and that [the restaurant] can accommodate larger parties,” he said. “That was one of the top drivers for them – knowing that the restaurant they were going to was a fun place to take the family.”

Additionally, Hispanic diners present a higher per-person check average than do non-Hispanic customers, he said. According to data collected in 2013 by the NPD Group research firm, the average per-person check among Hispanics at casual-dining restaurants is about $14.21, compared with $13.70 among non-Hispanics.

“This is a really lucrative consumer if you can get them in your door. And I do think that message is resonating with restaurateurs. They are challenged for traffic and are starting to see that this low-hanging fruit, if you will, presents a lot of potential for growth.”

Perhaps one of the biggest takeaways from the study is the perception that Hispanic consumers are extremely loyal customers to the brands they patronize, Filiaci said.

“One of the things that seems to be universally accepted is that the Hispanic consumer is a more loyal consumer,” he said. “Because fewer brands are communicating with this customer, [Hispanic consumers] tend to stick with ones they’ve had great experiences with, who appreciate their business. They look at that as a cue that they’re welcome and their business is respected.”

“Demographics are destiny for the restaurant industry, and savvy restaurant operators will keep a close eye on these trends to tailor their marketing and offerings to the changing demographic landscape,” said Hudson Riehle, the NRA’s senior vice president of research. “The U.S. population will continue to become more diverse, and according to Census Bureau projections, Hispanics are leading that growth.”

Pictured, top right: Peter Filiaci of Univision

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