Casual dining has been on the decline in recent years, particularly as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. This decline began prior to the pandemic in sit-down, casual-dining spots such as Applebees and TGIFridays. This pre-pandemic decline is a result of a 7.4% decrease in foot traffic between 2018 and 2019, following a 0.4% decline between 2017 and 2018 (Business Insider).
But why are casual dining restaurants experiencing such a decline? Aside from the pandemic, the decline is a result of the recession, inflation, and a generational shift in perspective. As noted by Insider, millennial consumers would much rather cook at home or have food delivered, breaking from the traditions of older generations that would rather enjoy a meal in an establishment. This shift in dining preferences was heightened throughout the pandemic with stay-at-home orders, lockdowns, and a fear of contracting or transmitting the Covid-19 virus.
Unlike our competitors in the casual-dining industry, Big Whiskey’s has experienced steady growth over the last few years. This growth is a result of being innovative, and meeting our consumers where they are, whether in our establishment or in the comfort of their own homes. Let’s check out a list of reasons casual-dining restaurants fall behind in sales and growth.
We understand that promotions or discounts are amazing, especially in times of economic uncertainty. However, brands that avoid focusing on their long-term future are relying solely on promotions or discounts to make a quick dollar. As a result, they are experiencing discounted profit margins and a loss of respect from consumers. While the occasional promotion is a great way to increase foot traffic and pay it forward with consumers, long term promotional tactics have proven to be detrimental to their success for a number of reasons.
Long-term promotions and discounts eventually devalue a brand and become part of a their identity. While some brands might be satisfied with the short-term gains earned from discounts or promotions, that satisfaction quickly shifts to turmoil when they are discontinued. Consumers become angry, and begin to wonder why their meals are so expensive. This shift in consumer perception eventually begins to negatively impact their likelihood of returning without a special offer.
Sacrificing Product Quality for Profit
There are several reasons why casual dining establishments are guilty of sacrificing product quality for profit. This might be the result of heavy discounting, and a restaurant’s need to turn tables more quickly to counter low ticket averages. Another reason a restaurant might sacrifice product quality is because they are looking to cut overhead costs.
Unlike other restaurants that compensate by decreasing portion sizes or settling for sub-par quality, Big Whiskey’s has created meaningful partnerships and relationships with reliable providers that are mutually beneficial. We have been able to successfully negotiate pricing and terms for key products and supplies through contracts with suppliers like US Foods and Coca-Cola. The enables us to buy direct at preferred pricing with no mark up from us.
Assuming Guest Satisfaction
Another pitfall that casual dining restaurants can experience is the result of assuming guest satisfaction, or that they’ll never leave. In a highly competitive market, Big Whiskey’s realizes the importance of ensuring each guest is satisfied after a visit, so we offer comprehensive training at both our corporate location and at each restaurant to ensure our staff perform at the highest possible standard. We also try to ensure that any problem or issue is solved before a guest ever leaves our establishment.
We believe in paying it forward with our guests with various incentives through our Loyalty Rewards Program, such as a free appetizer for joining, or a special treat on their birthday. The perks don’t end there though! Once a guest signs up for our Loyalty Rewards Program they earn points with every purchase at Big Whiskey’s that can be used to purchase items from our evolving and innovative menu!
Lack of marketing
Strong marketing and advertising practices allow you to tell a story. Unfortunately, if you aren’t telling that story, someone else will tell it for you.
Many casual dining establishments have backed themselves into a corner by solely focusing their advertising and marketing efforts on discounts, deals, and promotions. Big Whiskey’s has found great success by highlighting the culture of our restaurants through thoughtful advertising that focuses on what makes us great, our food, drinks, staff, and guests!
We also provide marketing materials and assistance for each of our franchise locations. From brand logos and templates to innovative marketing strategies, we’ll help with initial and ongoing promotion of your restaurant. We’re committed to ensuring each of our restaurants has the support needed to share our story authentically and effectively.
To put it frankly, most casual dining restaurant websites are mediocre at best. Menu pictures posted on a Facebook page are not an adequate substitute for a website, and guests will surely notice. Big Whiskey’s has always believed in being a front runner in the casual dining industry. We have achieved this through innovation and creativity. Our website is fully functional with options to view our menu, order online, and even apply for a position on our team!
We also have an impressive app that allows customers to earn and claim Loyalty Rewards and order online! Our app allows users to find nearby locations, order for delivery, reorder past orders, and even stores credit and debit cards for quicker checkout. You’ll also find beautiful product and ingredient imagery to help make an informed decision!
Lack of innovation
One barrier that casual dining restaurants of the past have never been able to break through is a lack of evolution in their menus. Their inability to curate new and exciting menu options, including LTO’s has left consumers yearning for more. Additionally, it seems as though all LTO’s have been primarily discount based, rather than experimental or innovative. Big Whiskey’s on the other hand has strived to offer LTO’s that are rich in flavor and variety.
While most of our competitors are consumed with filling seats, a daunting side effect of heavy discounting, Big Whiskey’s is able to focus on growth and expansion through our quarterly menu analysis and curation. We also work with our partners at US Foods to track trends and develop new menu items and LTOs as specific flavors, dishes, and products rise in popularity.
Additionally, our LTOs are implemented on a quarterly basis and are proven to increase ticket averages. Our LTOs aren’t just a way to increase our profits though. We strive to learn from their successes and failures, adding proven menu items and removing deadweight in the process. Through this practice we are able to maximize profitability and guest satisfaction.
At Big Whiskey’s we also provide franchise opportunities that span the test of time. Our team has found great success by setting ourselves apart from competitors like TGIFridays and Applebees, and we have learned from their mistakes. We have added value to our brand by avoiding over-discounting, sacrificing product quality for profit, and assuming guest satisfaction. We have invested in marketing resources that allow us to tell our own story, and have been frontrunners in innovation, particularly on our online platforms, such as our website and the Big Whiskey’s app.
If you’re interested in learning more about our Big Whiskey’s franchise restaurant opportunities, check out our deck and if you’re ready to talk, we will be too!