Survey Reveals Consumers are Eating Out, Despite Economy; Restaurants Offering Coupons or Memberships are Big Winners

NORCROSS, Ga. (January 14, 2009) – A recent survey of 1,190 consumers from across the country revealed that 98% of consumers eat out or order take-out at least once a week, but 43% are spending less than they did compared to a year ago. Coupon use at restaurants is up among consumers, and offering meal discounts or free items are two of the best ways to attract new customers. With regard to repeat business, the survey revealed a strong relationship between restaurants that offer membership programs and very loyal patrons. Hospitality research firm A Closer Look, based in Norcross, Ga., conducted the online survey November – December 2008.


During the previous month, 54% of respondents said they had redeemed both dine-in and take-out coupons, and nearly one-third of respondents admitted to using coupons more during the second half of 2008 compared to the first half of the year. Twenty percent of respondents said they had only redeemed dine-in coupons; 13% revealed they had only redeemed take-out coupons; and 13% said they had not used any coupons the previous month.


Consumers who prefer to receive restaurant coupons and special offers via email, for which they have opted in, account for 42% of respondents, and 33% of respondents said their preference is for coupons to arrive via traditional mail. Only 13% of respondents said a newspaper insert is their first choice; 6% said they like to receive coupons with their meal at the restaurant; and 6% admitted a restaurant web site is their preference.


“The fact that email ranked so high among consumer preferences is good news for restaurants because it is so cost effective,” said David McAleese, CEO of A Closer Look. “One of the best ways to create an email database is to include a line at the bottom of each guest check that invites patrons to participate in a web survey, which not only helps to build your database, but also provides you feedback about a location’s food, service and atmosphere.”


Despite the tough economy, the survey revealed that consumers are trying new restaurants, and respondents said that coupons or special offers really help to win their business. From September – November 2008, nearly three-quarters of respondents said they tried one to three new restaurants.  Seventeen percent of respondents tried a new restaurant four times or more during that period, averaging more than once a month; and 9% admitted they frequented their favorite restaurants instead of venturing out to a new one.


Not surprisingly, a recommendation from a friend is the primary reason consumers try a new restaurant (36%), but the survey revealed that a coupon or incentive runs a close second (30).  Location is a key factor for 18% of respondents, menu selection motivates 11%, and the fact that a new restaurant has a reputation for being family-friendly is most important to 5% of respondents.


Fifty-five percent of survey respondents said they are a member of a restaurant club, whereby they receive discounts on special occasions and are eligible for member-only offers. Of those surveyed, 40% considered themselves to be “extremely” or “very” loyal to the restaurant(s) where they are a member, and 48% said they were “somewhat” loyal.  


Since opening in 1994, A Closer Look has provided guest feedback solutions for thousands of clients throughout the United States and Canada. It has established a database of more than 150,000 qualified field associates and regularly conducts marketing research for private and public companies. For more information about A Closer Look, call 1-888-446-5665 or visit