From Plan to Plate

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How customers are making decisions about where to eat out of home

Licensed by KAM Media : Published: February 2019

Choice of venue

Type of occasion influences the choice of venue

To what extent does the type of occasion/reason for eating out influence your choice of venue?




70% of those questioned stated that the occasion/reason for eating out would affect the choice of venue. This correlates with the previous statistic which showed 30% of customers are eating out specifically to experience the venue (pg. 14). We also know from previous statistics that party size and potential spend are going to be impacted by the occasion. So if customers are making key venue choices depending on the type of occasion, shouldn’t we be incorporating occasion-based marketing into everything we do? Sometimes selling the ambience and the menu isn’t enough, we need to inspire the customer to see our venue as a destination for their occasion. A slight change in tact but a significant shift in mentality in order to attract customers.

49% To a great extent

To some extent

To a little extent

To no extent

Eating out IS the event

Gone are the days when going out for food was part of a much bigger experience- consumers are prioritising eating out as a, if not THE reason for leaving their living room. As this attitude towards a meal out grows, we have to ensure that the consumer is getting a rounded, consistent and interesting experience. What can we learn from more traditional ‘experience’ outings such as the theatre, cinema, sporting events– which of these learnings can be taken into the pub/restaurant dining room? Customers are going to be increasingly looking for an experience which they cannot get at home– so good food alone isn’t going to be enough to keep them coming back for more.

YES (before): 18%

NO: 66%

YES (after): 17%

Q. Thinking about the last time you ate out at a pub or restaurant were you going somewhere before or after (specifically to an event such as theatre, cinema, music gig, sporting event, etc.)?

Convenience is king and reviews drive footfall To what extent does the following have on your choice of venue when eating out at a pub or restaurant? (% stating to a significant extent)

How easy it is to get to Location Cuisine style Word of mouth Atmosphere Parking nearby Budget (i.e. how much you wish to spend) Ease of reservation Look and feel of the venue website Online customer reviews Critical reviews Brand of venue Ordered from here for takeaway before Exclusivity of venue Signage/ posters outside the venue New openings- wanting to be the first Michelin stars (or other awards) Name of chef

78% 77% 70% 64% 63% 63% 56% 43% 38% 35% 32% 32% 26% 24% 24% 21% 20% 17%

The are many factors at play when it comes to the decision making process for customer when choosing a particular pub or restaurant. We’ve colour coded the responses to show the general trends. In green we can see reasons which would be classed under ‘convenience’. Ultimately, if your venue is not in an easily accessible location and/or your booking system isn’t up to scratch, then you’re going to have to work ten times harder than your competition to drive footfall. Third party communication (in red) is another key factor– a combination of word of mouth and reviews are a sure fire way to increase awareness and encourage customer visits. Offering customers a clear and easy platform to both share and view opinions on the venue is a fundamental communication tool. For this is a more valuable investment that traditional marketing (light grey), which is actually relatively low in level of importance. Blue represents factors in immediate control of the venue (i.e. food, environment and prices). Followed by (light grey) ‘perceived’ excellence, which clearly is influencing the minority rather than the majority. Understanding the main drivers within venue choice can help venues and brands prioritise their marketing and operating budgets for areas that will deliver the greatest ROI in terms of footfall, loyalty and customer advocacy. For example ensuring the website is simple to use and easy to book from may be worth investing in more than specific brand-led communications.

We love a venue with a little bit of atmosphere

63 % Say ATMOSPHERE has a significant impact on choice of venue

We’ve picked out 3 of the top, and most interesting, factors which have a significant impact on choice of venue for customers eating out at either a pub or a restaurant. First up is ‘atmosphere’ which has is highly important to nearly 2 in 3 customers. Almost as much as the quality of food, the atmosphere can make or break an eating out experience. It is sometimes thought that poor food can be somewhat alleviated by a good atmosphere, whereas the opposite isn’t necessarily true.

We’ve seen, with the rise of experiential venues, such as Flight Club or Junkyard Golf, that customers are increasingly looking for an experience that you can’t easily replicate at home. Activities teamed with quality drinks and food (some with the ability to pre-order), means that venues like these have people coming for the activity but staying longer for more traditional fayre. Whilst it could be said that an atmosphere is the responsibility of the guests themselves, venues need to offer an environment that is conducive to creating the right feel. Lighting, music, décor, seating, table decorations, cutlery, staff, service, temperature, table layout, toilets...the list goes on. A good atmosphere is like good food– a fine balance of textures and flavours that combine together to create something extraordinary, and when done well, create something that becomes difficult, if not impossible, to replicate at home– and that’s the key.

Word of mouth – true or fake news?

64 % Say WORD OF MOUTH has a significant impact on choice of venue

The second area of focus when influencing customer choice is ‘word of mouth’. We’ve already seen this phrase pop up a few times and with good reason, it remains one of the most significant drivers of venue choice and the number one point of reference for customers when ‘researching’ a venue they’ve not visited before. What we know of as word of mouth is, however, evolving. Of course it can still be actual conversations happening between actual people, but like everything its increasingly happening in a digital world.

Social media platforms are constantly evolving to be places for users to share their views, opinions and experiences. It’s therefore easier than ever for word of mouth to spread (both good and bad). Being open to this is important, for customers know we live in a world that isn’t perfect so to see a brand that operates within a perfect world immediately rings alarms bells and gives off an aura of inauthenticity. So allowing an engagement with customers that celebrates the good and empathises with (and reacts positively to) the bad will drive greater loyalty and advocacy in the long run. We asked those who didn’t know the venue they were going to visit at the time of deciding to eat out, how and where they researched their destination and how they made their choice. Word of mouth was the most popular response. With the majority of that being the ‘old fashioned’ way of actually speaking to people (although this may not have been actually face-to-face, in person…..maybe more Facetime than face time!), but it does show that word of mouth is alive and well and still a fundamental part of how customers find out about venues- and more importantly demonstrates the level of trust customers have in their friend’s (or people they respect) opinions. Google searching was more popular than standard review sites. Only 7% of customers used Trip Advisor– perhaps the perception of fake reviews, and lack of trust is turning people off this particular method.

Q. Which of the following, if any, did you use to research the venue?

Speaking to friends/colleagues

Searching on Google

38% 14%

Searching other review/recommendation websites, i.e. Time Out, Newspapers, etc.


Searching Trip Advisor


Looking at reviews on OpenTable or other booking websites


Asking followers through social media


Case Study Did KFC run out of chicken?

In February 2018 fast food restaurant chain KFC was forced to temporarily close most of its UK outlets and hit the headlines across the press and social media after there was reported to be a ‘chicken shortage’. A total of 562 KFC outlets remained shut following a weekend of disruption that peaked on the Sunday night at 646 closures. In reality the problem was caused by operational issues with a new delivery contract, but that didn’t stop social media going into overdrive and KFC themselves making light of the situation by taking out ‘apology’ advertisements in national newspapers. This situation is now widely thought of to be a great example of how to deal with a PR crisis in a positive way

Glass box brands - the future of word of mouth

The rapid rise in social sharing and 24/7 news cycles is having a profound impact on how we digest information and to the extent in which ‘news’ is shaping our mindsets. This impact is being felt dramatically through the massive shift taking place within business and consumerism. This is a shift in what it fundamentally means to be a ‘brand’ in today’s world. Specifically how the generation fueled by social media, and the generation that has grown up in a digital, omnichannel world, sees the brands of today. This could be seen as a challenge to many, but for some and specifically for those brands who are innovators and disrupters, it presents a massive opportunity. So what is this shift and what is the impact? The phenomena is known as ‘the glass box brand’

This is an exert from the KAM Media report ’Generation Z: Tomorrow’s Shopper Today’

It used to be easy (didn’t everything!) back in the day for brands. How you wanted your customers to view you was down to your marketing department. Whatever you said on the outside (your advertising, your branding, your packaging) was how your customers saw you. You could convince them that you were, indeed, ‘The Best a Man Can Get’. However we don’t live in the world of black boxes anymore, every brand is now a glass box. Customers can see through to the core of the brand– it’s now not just about what you put on the outside but it’s about how you think and behave on the inside that really counts. How you treat your staff, your political stance, what you stand for, what your CEO says in public – all this and more has a profound impact on what your customers think of your brand and ultimately the extent to which they will engage with it.

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