Making inroads with business diners can help grow restaurant sales.

When it comes to attracting today’s customers, full-service restaurateurs spend as much time scrutinizing technology and metrics as they do table settings and menus. Increased channel noise from third-party providers has everyone reaching for data as a way to identify ever-shifting customer trends. However, bits and bytes are not the only way to grow sales. Many savvy brands are adding business-to-business marketing into their playbooks.

Here, Shannon Delaney, vice president of marketing for Dinova, a business dining network, explains the importance of attracting business travelers to your restaurant—and understanding consumer behaviors that will help you to do so.

1. Why is the business traveler a critical customer for restaurants to attract?
Corporate dining is huge—it represents about $100 billion in annual U.S. restaurant revenue—and business travel dining makes up the lion’s share ($77 billion) of that total. This is good news for restaurants, because the business travel industry grew 5.8 percent in 2017 and is expected to grow steadily through 2022. More business travel means travel-related dining is also poised to jump.

2. What marketing strategies should operators implement in order to target business travelers?
To attract traveling business diners for what may be their first visit, chefs and operators cannot rely solely on traditional consumer marketing tactics, which tend to be geared toward locals and returning guests. Instead, developing a B2B strategy—one that specifically reaches business travelers when they’re making dining decisions—will give restaurants significantly better results in reaching this group.

3. How do business travelers’ dining behaviors inform the marketing strategies that best attract them?
Sixty-three percent of business travelers who participated in a study Dinova conducted last year with the Global Business Travel Association said they search for places to dine before even leaving for their trip, and 58 percent research restaurants close to their hotel.

Additionally, seventy-seven percent said they prefer to eat like a local while traveling, and 49 percent research foods that are unique to their destinations. Respondents also said they rely on online reviews, social media, and recommendations from colleagues when choosing a place to dine. So restaurants need to be discoverable in all of the resources these diners use to plan their trips and conduct their business—whether they’re at their desk, or on the road.

4. How does the age of business travelers affect their dining behaviors?
Dinova’s research has uncovered some interesting generational dining differences among business travelers. Baby Boomers are most likely to wine-and-dine clients while on the road, and they have fewer reservations than their younger counterparts about expensing alcohol and other “extras.” Meanwhile, Generation X tends to use mealtimes for connection-building— they’re the group most likely to dine with peers and clients throughout the day. By contrast, Millennials often opt for quicker, cheaper food on business trips and are more likely to take their food to-go for all three dayparts.

5. Any final thoughts?
Millennials will be the majority of the workforce by 2025, and corporate travel policies are evolving to accommodate them. Anything restaurants can do to engage Millennials at work will give them an edge.

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