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National Restaurant Association - Gain business from affluent guests

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Gain business from affluent guests

It’s no surprise that higher-income consumers typically spend more at restaurants. Households that earn $70,000-$79,999 spend more than twice as much at restaurants as those earning between $20,000 and $29,999, according to the National Restaurant Association’s Consumer Spending in Restaurants. And the spending ratchets up from there. Households making $150,000 or more spend an average of $6,585 on restaurant food annually, nearly twice as much as those earning $70,000 to $79,999. The good news is that higher-income households are on the rise after a decline during the Great Recession.

How can your restaurant capture some of that disposable income? Try out these strategies:

Emphasize the experience. Entice guests to splurge on memorable, theatrical dining experiences. Think kitchen tables, chef tableside visits, cooking classes and open kitchens.

Give a fresh perspective. Consumers crave freshly prepared food with quality ingredients. Locally sourced meat, seafood and produce topped the National Restaurant Association’s “What’s Hot in 2015” chef survey. Fine-dining restaurants capitalize on that by promoting farm-to-table offerings, and the fast-casual segment has gotten in on the act, too. Chipotle touts that it sources ingredients locally when possible.  While other segments remain sluggish, fast-casual sales are climbing because the restaurants offer high-perceived quality, says analyst Bonnie Riggs of the NPD Group, a market research company. “The cost is considerably higher than fast food, but higher-income consumers are willing to pay for it, because they have the means, and the food delivers on their expectations.”

Offer prix-fixé menus. Multi-course, fixed-price menus offer guests an incentive to indulge. Find a promotion that fits your concept, whether it’s a three-course meal for $20 or a five-course tasting menu for $150.  

Accentuate alcohol. While extensive wine lists and wine pairings are a mainstay at fine-dining restaurants, casual eateries also can profit from high-margin alcohol sales. Fast-casual Noodles & Company serves wine; Smashburger offers a pairing menu for burgers and beers; and Chipotle upgraded its margaritas last year, adding fresh citrus juice. Boost beverage sales with seasonal cocktails and craft beers.

Say cheese. Tempt guests to extend or start their meal with a cheese course. Or go further by offering a tableside cheese cart. And what goes better with cheese than wine?

Promote dinner and a show. Located near a theater? Promote pre- and post-show dining, and consider offering a discount or a glass of wine for theater patrons. Some restaurants throw in free parking for the evening or car service to the theater. Cross-promotions with the theater can earn your restaurant a coveted spot on its website. Make sure OpenTable and other sites identify your pre- and post-show dining.

Enhance your loyalty program. Old-fashioned frequent-diner punch cards largely have been replaced by plastic swipe cards, but the basics remain of offering rewards for repeat business. Casual- and fine-dining operators identified the addition or expansion of a rewards program as their most successful strategy to enhance customer loyalty, according to the National Restaurant Association’s research. Another perk: You’ll gain access to customer email addresses, birthdates and anniversaries, giving you the ability to easily market your promotions.

Some restaurants go beyond offering free items or gift certificates. For example, frequent diners of Chicago-based Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants can put their points toward a chef-led cooking demonstration coupled with a three-course lunch.

Earn baby boomer bucks. The high-income demographic is heavily populated by baby boomers, notes analyst Riggs, who authored the NPD report Boomers and Beyond: Targeting for Success. Her research found that baby boomers like comfortable seating, good lighting, quieter settings, top-notch service and easy-to-read menus. “They also want to stay young forever,” says Riggs. “They’re willing to try new things and new flavors.”

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