Cost and Value Still Top-of-Mind for Canadian Full-Service Customers

Data from our latest consumer trend report on family and casual dining in Canada shows that while family-style and casual-dining restaurants are bouncing back from the recession they are not out of the woods yet. For these concepts, driving traffic in today’s economy hinges on their ability to understand which aspects, beyond price, consumers see as their unique strengths—strengths they can leverage to bolster their value equation and differentiate themselves from the competition.

Most Canadian consumers say they are visiting family-style and casual-dining restaurants at the same rate as they were two years ago. (We asked them about two types of casual-dining restaurants—traditional concepts like Boston Pizza or Montana’s Cookhouse and upscale casual concepts like The Keg Steakhouse & Bar and Milestone’s Grill & Bar.) And while some continue to cut back at each location, these cuts are not as severe as they were in 2010.

Base: 1,000 consumers aged 18+
Totals do not equal 100% due to rounding
Source: The Canadian Future of Family & Casual Dining Consumer Trend Report

Cost considerations have primarily driven consumers who say they have altered their patronage. Those visiting more often cite value, trade downs and, in the case of upscale casual-dining restaurants, having more money to spend.  Meanwhile, those cutting back are visiting less often to save money or making more meals at home instead—and many say they plan to continue these tactics as the economy improves.

Clearly, operators need to create touchpoints beyond price to lure diners. In order to determine which attributes operators can tout and those they may need to address, Technomic asked respondents to rate these segments on more than 30 different attributes. Consumers’ opinions are not always obvious. For instance, while upscale concepts significantly outpace other sectors for food quality, they did not rate overwhelmingly higher for several other attributes, including food taste or flavour—often consumers’ most pressing needstate—or for uniqueness. Further, family-style concepts surpassed both casual-dining sectors for healthfulness.

Base: Approximately 150 (family style, traditional and upscale) consumers aged 18+ who visit these restaurants
Consumers indicated their opinion on a scale of 1–6 where 1 = very poor and 6 = very good
Source: The Canadian Future of Family & Casual Dining Consumer Trend Report

Family-style concepts, not surprisingly, fare best for offering kid-appeal while upscale concepts again surpass the competition in the areas of service and overall experience. However, despite these ratings, upscale concepts still lag behind both family-style and traditional casual-dining sectors for overall value, reiterating the importance of price in the value proposition.

Base: Approximately 150 (family style, traditional and upscale) consumers aged 18+ who visit these restaurants
Consumers indicated their opinion on a scale of 1–6 where 1 = very poor and 6 = very good
Source: The Canadian Future of Family & Casual Dining Consumer Trend Report

Cost is clearly at the forefront of consumers’ decisions and plays a strong role in the value equation. But to break apart from the competition, none of these concepts can compete on cost alone. To justify their price points, operators will need to determine and excel at providing their key points of differentiation, and ensure that they not only meet, but exceed consumer expectations in these areas.

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Kelly Weikel

As Director of Consumer Insights, Kelly specializes in using her background in psychology to understand the “why” behind consumer decisions. Her focus is on uncovering the underlying consumer needstates and motivations that shape foodservice behaviors and providing insights on consumer attitudes and usage across foodservice products, amenities and brands. Since joining the firm in 2007, Kelly has played a key role in developing Technomic’s Consumer Trend Reports and Access platform and manages the series of more than 20 annual studies that keep U.S. and Canadian foodservice professionals up to date on evolving trends in food and beverage categories, restaurant sectors, dining occasions, consumer segments and more.

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