Business dining—including travel meals, private dining events, and catering—represents $100 billion in annual U.S. restaurant sales. With such a strong market figure, there are opportunities available for restaurant types across segments to attract travelling business diners. But knowing how to market to that group is key.
“To attract business diners, there are two things that operators need to understand,” says Shannon Delaney, vice president of marketing for Dinova, a turnkey business dining solution. “First, with so much business now being conducted digitally, today’s face-to-face interactions are taking on greater importance—turning restaurants into de facto conference rooms as business diners meet over lunch or host clients for dinner.”
Second, Delaney says, the majority of business travelers report that they research dining options before they ever leave for a trip. They use multiple resources, including consumer-focused review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, recommendations from colleagues, and internal company guidelines and tools, to pre-determine their work trip dining itineraries.
“There’s a lot about business travel that is draining and difficult,” she says, “but dining is something that travelers enjoy, and they’re looking for experiences that both expose them to local culture and reflect well on them if they’re planning on entertaining clients.”
For operators, this means they need to optimize their online presence across the board. Delaney recommends including business dining-friendly phrases and encouraging reviews written from the business diner perspective.
“Being discoverable online in the pre-trip research phase is critical to attracting those customers,” she says.
In order to build that presence, restaurateurs should ensure they have strong profiles across the various dining apps, review sites, and social media, as these are the platforms business travelers will most likely use to research their options. Delaney adds that although consumer behaviors may apply in how these diners research restaurants, that’s not the case when it comes to ordering at the table and spending company money.
“Many operators aren’t thinking about the fact that business diners don’t care about promotions and discounts,” Delaney says. “They’re far more concerned about the overall experience. Travelers want to know what is unique about your restaurant, what the ambiance is like, what the food position is, and why it’s a good choice for business dining.”
Communicating these details to business diners is critical to capturing their robust traffic. Additionally, if your restaurant is part of a company-approved dining policy that can promote your business-grade status within the organization, travelers are less concerned about the total amount they spend and much more comfortable with having it show up on their expense report.
“There is really no substitute for having connections that can get you into the right places at the right times, and this is what Dinova is doing for restaurants,” Delaney says.