When it comes to dining out, just how spontaneous are consumers? You might think that given the increase in casual dining restaurants and pubs, they would be less inclined to book ahead and therefore be more spontaneous in their decision making. Our research shows, despite many customers turning up to eat without booking first, you shouldn’t be fooled into thinking they haven’t done their research.
According to our recent study ‘how customers read menus’, we found that 71% of those under the age of 45 look at the menu prior to going to a venue. This is compared with our annual survey ‘how diners make decisions’ which found 59% prefer to leave the decision of where to eat until the last minute and don’t book ahead of their visit.
So how does feedback fare? Only 28% looked at online reviews such as TripAdvisor suggesting that, over the past year, consumers are becoming less trusting in third-party reviews, and are coming direct to the source to conduct pre-visit research – highlighting how your brand’s online presence is more important than it was 12 months ago.
Interestingly, it appears men are more likely to try and plan ahead with over half admitting they try to book, be it successfully or unsuccessfully. Pre-booking is most popular with the under 30s with 62% of men saying they would book in advance. Women on the other hand are far more relaxed, with 38% trying to book in advance.
Surprisingly, phone booking actually went up in frequency, seeing an increase of 4% – most commonly amongst over 50s, as well as more people booking whilst out and about rather than at home, which has fallen to 43%.
Customers may still be being spontaneous when it comes to bookings, or which day they may choose to eat out, but given these findings, they are by no means arriving at your venue by chance. Influencing their decision is still very much within the realms of your control and the power of your online presence should not be underestimated.