Is local restaurant delivery the answer to flat restaurant hours?

Is Local Restaurant Delivery the Answer to Flat Local Restaurant Traffic?

Flat restaurant traffic isn’t a recent phenomenon, it’s been the case since 2009. Adding local restaurant delivery could give your business new ways to grow.

Can’t Beat Them? Join Them with 3 Restaurant Delivery Business Models

There’s an old saying that goes “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” the idea being that sometimes the route to victory is conceding one point in order to pursue another. One third of U.S. adults are eating out less in 2017 than they did last year. But it’s not a new trend; annual traffic to U.S. restaurants has ranged from 0 to just 1 percent since 2009 (NPD Group).

Given that flat restaurant traffic isn’t just an economic hiccup, but an 8 year trend, waiting on the economy to improve probably isn’t the answer. Although 62 percent of the one-third of Americans who said they are eating out less this year compared to last cited cost as the reason, lowering prices (if that’s even a practical option) may not be the answer either. For instance, even among those who cited cost as the primary reason, other reasons (such as a desire to eat healthier) could also be impacting their decisions to eat out less often. For others, changes to household make up (such as going from single to married or having children), housing (such as buying a new home or moving to a more rural locale) and other factors may also be at play.

3 Restaurant Delivery Ideas to Grow Your Business

Restaurant Delivery Specially-Priced Self-Service Take Out

If you feel that fewer people are dining out and cost is a (or even the primary) factor, promoting a special menu of items that are lower-priced than dine-in options, for take-out only, and which must be ordered via app or website may help you reconnect with lapsed budget-conscious customers.

It can also help you introduce your restaurant to people who may not have tried it before due to cost or lack of time, with the convenience of order-ahead, take-out lunch and dinner options that can help them save time as well as money.

Restaurant Delivery Subscriptions

This is a great option for “regular” customers who nearly always order the same items. Giving customers the option to subscribe to restaurant delivery, take-out or even dine-in reservations that recur every 2-4 weeks (or some other desired frequency) of their favorite or frequently-ordered menu items can help even out the ups and downs of the restaurant business.

You can also tailor restaurant delivery subscriptions for patrons who like to change things up every time they come in with a subscription menu that allows them to choose which item they’ll have delivered or served up next.

Both subscription models give you the ability to even out the ups and downs and to streamline ordering as well, since you’ll know what you’ll need to order ahead of time. Subscriptions could be especially effective for families who need convenient meal options for busy sports-and-activity-filled evenings or working professionals who don’t always have time to step out for lunch.

Like the specially-priced take out only option above, overhead savings can allow you to price subscriptions at a discount compared to full price as well in order to increase participation among price-sensitive patrons.

Restaurant Delivery Windows  

If you’re not sure whether your restaurant is ready for full-fledged delivery options, you can gauge interest, costs and the impact of adding restaurant delivery services by setting up windows of time (certain times of day, certain days of the week, etc.) where local delivery is available. This could be a good way to increase revenues during the lunch hour if your restaurant is located near big office complexes or in an urban area where the lunch hour is likely to be your highest-producing mealtime. Conversely, if your restaurant makes its money during happy hour or dinner time, a late-afternoon to early evening delivery window might be your best bet.

You might also like:  How to Market Restaurant Happy Hours

How Would Your Local Market React to these 3 Restaurant Delivery Business Models?

National numbers are one thing but for most restaurant owners, the problem of flat or declining traffic is a local one, not a national one. Therefore, when considering increasing, flat or declining restaurant traffic patterns for your restaurant since 2009, you need to take local demographics into account.

Is cost a factor? Maybe. For instance, here in the Seattle-Tacoma area the cost of living and median home prices have experienced increases that significantly outpace average local salaries. However, even that statistic varies neighborhood to neighborhood.

Pinpointing the causes of flat restaurant traffic for your business necessitates a strong understanding of your target audience and “ideal” diner types. If words to the iconic song from PBS’ long-running children’s show Sesame Street “Who are the people in your neighborhood?” isn’t running through your head yet, maybe they should be:

“Oh, who are the people in your neighborhood?
In your neighborhood?
In your neighborhood?
Say, who are the people in your neighborhood?
The people that you meet each day.”

Your understanding of “who” are the people in your neighborhood can help you identify where your restaurant is hitting or missing with local residents. It can help you refine your business model to appeal to a larger target audience. It can help you successfully reach your ideal customer types.

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