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National Restaurant Association - Word of mouth, convenience, technology key to restaurant selection

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Word of mouth, convenience, technology key to restaurant selection

Word-of-mouth recommendation, convenience and expanded use of technology are some of the best ways to grow a restaurant's customer base, new research conducted by the National Restaurant Association has found.

"Understanding what influences a diner to choose one restaurant over another can give an operator a distinct competitive advantage," said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the NRA's Research & Knowledge Group. "Word of mouth has always been a restaurant's best promotional tool and that remains the case even in today's technology-driven world."

According to the NRA's 2013 Restaurant Industry Forecast, 94 percent of adult consumers surveyed said they are likely to base their restaurant choices on recommendations from a family member or friend. Furthermore, frequent restaurant customers said they are even more likely to base their dining-out decisions on word-of-mouth recommendations.

Restaurants' increased use of technology, such as engaging in social media programs and websites, also is seen as a good way to retain and attract customers, especially from those who seek value, the data found. According to the report, 45 percent of adult consumers questioned said they would likely choose a restaurant based on advertisements or promotions emailed to them. Another 43 percent - and a majority of frequent diners, said special offers sent through online marketing sites, such as Groupon or LivingSocial, would likely influence their restaurant choices.

The data further found that 35 percent of adults surveyed said information posted on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter would likely influence their restaurant selections.

Riehle said the use of online marketing as a communications tool is an increasingly important, strategic way for restaurant operators to reach tech-savvy customers who rely on their computers and mobile phones to make their dining and entertainment choices.

"Social media is a great way for operators to reach and attract a new clientele, one that seeks quick hit information," he noted, and added that, "restaurateurs recognize the benefits associated with embracing this technology and are even more willing to engage in it in order to grow sales and customer traffic."

The study also found that convenience is a key factor for consumers when choosing where to dine out. According to adult consumers polled, 80 percent said they were likely to make a restaurant choice based on ease of parking.

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