We all know Mother’s Day is the mother of all dining-out events. Followed by Valentine’s Day and then pretty much everything else. The National Restaurant Association found that 92 million American adults, or 37 percent of consumers, planned to dine out on Mother’s Day and 21 million, or 8 percent, had designs to order delivery or takeout.
As Sense360, a data insights and research firm discovered, Memorial Day was far from a normal calendar day as well. This year, full-service restaurants not only saw a boost in traffic but also one in engagement. Notably, brands witnessed an increase in duration breakfast and lunch visits—more than 20 minutes—versus shorter/commuter breakfast and lunch visits. Full serves reported an 8 percent increase in slower lunches and an 18 percent jump in slower breakfasts. Dine-in breakfast restaurants especially.
IHOP had a 64 percent increase in its typical Monday share, while The Original Pancake House reported a 67 percent lift in market share. Quick service, on the other hand, experienced the flipside, as Einstein Bros, Tim Hortons, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Bruegger’s Bagels were among those brands experiencing a decline in share.
This data aligns with typical holiday trends. Casual dining, as well as polished casual, typically thrive during hallmark occasions.
Sense360’s report backed this by showing a significant shift toward full serves compared to quick serves on Memorial Day. Versus the typical Monday, Cracker Barrel, Bob Evans, Perkins, IHOP, and Red Robin showed gains, while El Pollo Loco, Potbelly Sandwich Shop, Captain D’s, and Chick-fil-A were down from normal business.
Overall, El Pollo Loco, Qdoba, and Taco Bell reported some of the biggest share hits. Dairy Queen was one quick serve that thrived, however.
One area quick-service brands did report an increase was in regards to travelling diners. Out-of-town visits ballooned more than 100 percent at fast casual and quick-service eateries. McDonald’s, Subway, and Sonic Drive-In each experienced more than double distribution in the category.
As for flavors, family style (no surprise there), desserts, and steak enjoyed a boost on Memorial Day. Hence the Dairy Queen prowess. Texas Roadhouse and Outback Steakhouse also reported increased share. Ethnic cuisines, especially Mexican and Asian, declined for the day, including Panda Express and Rubio’s.
Much of this data reflects the initial point: That consumers weren’t checking the clock like they normally would. That plus having the family together led to a more indulgent, lasting experience. Similar to Mother’s Day, when 32 percent of mothers surveyed by the NRA said having a meal out with their loved ones was the best gift they could receive, restaurants remain a desirable place to splurge and spend expendable capital in today’s economy. The question for full serves, however, hasn’t changed. How can restaurants, especially casual dining chains, attract consumers when it’s just another Monday in March?
Sense360 uses sensor technology, which relies on mobile sensors built into smartphones, to understand a user’s location and activity. According to the company, “We have trained our algorithms with hundreds of thousands of labeled data points and incorporate data from GPS, accelerometer, gyroscope, barometer, WiFi, ambient light, and many other sensors. This provides us with an anonymous, but highly accurate understanding of where, how, and when people interact with physical locations and businesses.”
The technology is on dozens of apps and more than two million devices in the U.S. The panel generates more than a terabyte of sensor data every day and provides a view of more than 150 million anonymous user visits per month.