In a recent article in Nation’s Restaurant News, “Catch the Consumer,” author Lisa Jennings explores the current state of the restaurant industry. She says: “Since the recession, the number of people walking through the doors of restaurants has remained negative or flat at best.”
It’s a fairly grim view of the industry. I’d like to highlight the positive, though: the Hispanic consumer. Given the growth, youth and consumer behavior, targeting Hispanics can be the industry’s most effective remedy.
Below I’ve highlighted some of Jennings’ challenges and solutions, and added the Hispanic point-of-view based on our Casual Dining Restaurant Research study done earlier this year.
The Challenge: Many consumers continue to keep a tight grip on their wallets, especially when it comes to spending a night out at their favorite casual dining chain. That’s why we’re seeing a shift in habits as more and more people are cooking at home.
The Solution: Think family friendly. For Hispanics, home is all about the family. So making your locations family friendly is key to driving trial, traffic and returns with this segment. In fact, according to our CDR study, some of the top drivers for Hispanics visiting a restaurant include being a fun place to take the family, being child-friendly and having large tables to accommodate groups.
The Challenge: The restaurant industry’s most important generation of eaters, Millennials, appear to be drifting away. According to Bonnie Riggs, restaurant analyst for The NPD Group, “until we see Millennials in a better situation, we won’t see much growth in the industry.”
The Solution: Tap into digital and stay fresh. One in five millennials is Hispanic, and they are even more likely to engage with a restaurant digitally than young non-Hispanics. For example, 28% of Hispanic Millennials downloaded a restaurant app on a smartphone vs. 16% of NH Millennials. Restaurant chains should always consider this as they build out their digital offerings. From mobile payment, to social media presence, what’s your Hispanic hook?
In addition, the industry’s move toward fresh will also be a key lever to engaging with Millennials as they are more willing to pay for fresh and healthy food. This is especially true for Hispanic millennials; they are more likely than non-Hispanic millennials to say that the variety and quality of food is a reason for visiting their favorite CDR.
Breakfast and Evening Snacking
The Challenge: Breakfast and evening snacking have shown growth, but traditional lunch and dinner day-parts are declining.
The Solution: Create other occasions to visit. Hispanics are more likely to have visited a casual dining restaurant in just about every daypart, especially during breakfast and late night hours, compared to non-Hispanics. Plus, our research showed that nearly half of Hispanic CDR visitors over the past 3 months had taken advantage of Happy Hour. Think beyond the traditional dayparts and into ways to drive traffic throughout the day…and let the Hispanic consumer know about it.
As the need to “catch the consumer” increases among the restaurant industry, it is important not to forget about Hispanics—who make up 17% of the population today. By doing so, not only will you win guest traffic, but you’ll also be saying gracias.