How restaurants can help set the dinner table this holiday season
With holiday music on the radio, preparations for winter’s gift-filled celebrations from Hanukkah to Christmas and Kwanza are underway. These winter traditions are synonymous with food, family and friends, but this year with COVID-19 cases spiking around the country, the traditional family gathering will look very different. The pandemic has severely impacted consumer spending on food-away-from-home, defined by the USDA as spending at all the places where people eat outside the home from restaurants to sports venues to cafeterias. In September, food-away-from-home spending was $9 billion less than the year before, an improvement from April when food-away-from-home spending dropped $35 billion from the year prior. The cumulative negative impact on the restaurant industry is substantial and the reduction in consumer spending will continue into this holiday season.
Dosh’s recent survey with more than 20,000 respondents tells a story of shifting holiday preferences. For example, the vast majority (93%) of holiday dinner gatherings will be the same size or smaller than last year and consumers are becoming more comfortable with in-store shopping with 79% reporting they are comfortable with in-store shopping today, up from 64% over the summer. Additionally, the survey showed that 69% of consumers are reducing their holiday travel budget to spend more on holiday meals. Here are three ways restaurants can put these insights into action.
Eating out: the new holiday dinner tradition
In a recent Bob’s Red Mill survey, 59% of Americans said they were planning to break one or more holiday traditions this year and one of the new traditions that many may start this year is skipping the home cooked holiday meal in favor of dining out or ordering take out. This is supported by the Dosh survey which shows that 38% of consumers are planning to eat out or order take out meals for major holiday meals this year. This is good news for the restaurant industry and to meet these changing consumer expectations and differentiate in the marketplace, restaurants can highlight their festive in-restaurant experience and take out holiday meals in various portions.
Go high end: create a premium holiday menu
Findings from the Dosh survey show that a majority (61%) of consumers is spending the same or more on their holiday dinner this year. With smaller gatherings and larger budgets, restaurants should take advantage of consumers’ desire to celebrate the close of a difficult year with a memorable holiday dinner and offer premium holiday menus. For example, last year Roy’s Restaurants offered a Gingerbread holiday lunch menu while this year they are offering a luxurious three course Christmas menu in addition to their Holiday Classics menu. Both are available for dine-in or take out service.
It’s all about the digital experience
Beyond traditional communications channels, restaurants should be promoting their holiday offerings with digital promotions that increase awareness of their holiday offerings, whether dining in or to go. Dosh’s cash back, card-linking platform is one such option that not only drives incremental sales lift and frequency but also provides valuable insight into customer data. Dosh is user friendly for both consumers and restaurants alike with no additional equipment purchases or staff training required. Dosh’s digital marketing campaigns have shown to increase sales even beyond the life of the specific campaign.
By promoting the premium menu items and focusing on digital marketing strategies, restaurants can capitalize on changing holiday traditions this winter. The surveys show that consumers are looking to create new holiday traditions by not only looking to restaurants to provide their holiday dinner, whether dine-in or take out, but also spending more in doing so. With these new consumer preferences, restaurants are poised to host more holiday dinners not just this year, but for years to come.