Restaurants to wean customers off steep discounts

by Erica Shaffer
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CHICAGO — Restaurant operators will begin to move consumers away from the steep discounts so common during the recession with deals like combo meals and value menus, according to a recent study from The NPD Group.

The study, called “Light at the End of the Tunnel…What Can We Expect,” showed restaurants were offering a slew of deals and discounts to encourage recession-ridden customers to visit.

“Restaurant traffic has been slipping since January 2009, and the decline in visits would have been worse had it not been for dealing,” said Bonnie Riggs, NPD’s restaurant industry analyst and author of the study. “Visits using a deal now represent about a quarter of restaurant traffic.”

According to the NPD study, dealing continues to be important. But consumers who said they cut back on restaurant visits due to the recession indicated that price discounts and other deals are less important motivators this year compared to 2009.

Combo meals and value menus have been used in the past to ease consumers off of steep discounts, Ms. Riggs said. These two types of deals are an opportunity for restaurant operators to build a check size.

“We’re also seeing more product introductions on menus because consumers are always looking for the next new thing, especially recession-weary consumers,” she said. “Typically, these new products have higher price points, which help offset the cost of the deals.”

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