Restaurant visits are declining. This is creating a lot of talk about what to do and how to draw people into eating establishments, which is a similar challenge vending, micro market and office coffee service operators face. This week, I read a suggestion that caught me off guard. The NPD group argued that to combat this trend, restaurants should get lighter users to visit more. This seemed such an obvious statement that I read the article to see if I was missing something. Turns out I was, and I wasn't.
Don't overlook light users
Really, what the article was saying boils down to loyalty and promotions. Most brands, restaurants included, reward heavy users. It makes sense. These people already buy the product, like the brand, etc. They appear to be the low hanging fruit ready to purchase more with little encouragement. For the vending, micro market and office coffee service industry, these are your regular users. They love the break room and the products you provide, regularly using your services multiple times per week (or day).
So why focus on the opposite group, the infrequent or light users? Because this is a large group that with a small change could have a substantial effect on sales growth. For restaurants, the NPD reported that light and super light users made up 47 percent of the customer base and usually spent more than heavy users when they did visit a restaurant. The NPD argued that getting these customers to visit just once more per week would result in a $1.1 billion increase in sales.
While user frequency data isn't as readily available in our industry, there is some opportunity by operators to see if these numbers are similar in micro markets. Examine the percentage of revenue that comes from light users, and if there are promotions to drive those users to purchase more often. Can you identify what motivates the light user? The NPD indicated that for restaurant visitors, regular discounts and especially discounts of the customers' choosing would entice an extra visit. Could this technique be used in micro markets? My argument would be yes, as micro markets are likely capturing some of the lost restaurant sales during work hours. Even without data, it's worth a try to inspire light users with specials, signage and promotions, especially to the break room vending machines. If you can turn spontaneous vending machine users into semi regular users, your revenues will go up.
Expand this idea beyond end users as well. Your big locations enjoy special deals and services due to high volume. Perhaps extend some of these specials to your smaller customers, or to those who have the potential to become larger. It's a good way of strengthening your partnership and perhaps getting more business.
Far from new, but still true
While focusing on gaining more visits from customers is not a new idea, it's worth a discussion on who those customers are and where they are coming from. The NPD argued that light users are an untapped resource that could tip the revenue scale for the better. Our industry, especially the retail side such as micro markets, might have the same opportunity.