Empathica Consumer Insights Panel:
Food Services Report

Analysis of U.S. & Canadian Consumer Spending Behaviors and Sentiments

Executive Summary

The Wave 1 Empathica Consumer Insights survey of more than 13,000 U.S. and Canadian consumers revealed several findings related to spending differences between men and women, customer service perceptions, and brand loyalty. In a time when restaurants have faced significant challenges with maintaining and growing their current client base, it’s necessary to conduct a close examination of current business processes that are either stimulating or hindering their growth.

While economic conditions have impacted consumer spending across the board, the restaurant industry has been affected most prominently. Casual and fine dining restaurant brands, in particular, struggle with lower traffic, less incoming cash and higher expectations to deliver. To accommodate changing consumer behaviors concerning discretionary spend, restaurants must place more of an emphasis on customer service in order to achieve traction with today’s choosy consumers.

With this research, Empathica desired to gain not only better insight into customer spending behaviors in today’s economy, but also the motivations that drive such behaviors. Among the findings realized by the Empathica Consumer Insights Panel, there were several prominent action steps required of today’s restaurant marketers:

  • Know your top promoters and your top detractors in order to establish a better customer experience. Americans, though spending less and dining out less frequently, demand unparalleled customer service in order to maintain their restaurant loyalty today. One in five Americans, in fact, value good service over good food.
  • Be familiar and reliable. In a stressful time, consumers will spend discretionary money on experiences they know they’ll enjoy.
  • Offer coupons, but not at the expense of changing your core branding. Women, who are more likely to forgo dining out than men, are likewise more apt to use a discount to visit a new restaurant.
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