V-Day 2018: How casual dining concepts fared in courting customers

Paul Tiedt | Feb 23, 2018 Paul Tiedt 02/23/18

Unless it was your first Valentine’s Day, you pretty much knew what to expect: chocolate, flowers, jewelry, etc. While those romantic gestures certainly add a nice touch, perhaps the best part of Valentine’s Day is having an excuse for a fun night on the town. And that makes it an extremely important night for restaurant brands. To see how casual concepts fared this year, we turned to our market intelligence tool BrandGeek®—the fastest, most accurate source of behavioral data linked to customer feedback in real time.

Here’s what we learned. (Note: If you’re interested in seeing how your brand’s Valentine’s Day results compared to named competitors, reach out to us.)

Casual dining brands saw a jump in visit share—but not as big as last year’s

By analyzing the data collected during dinner-time hours on Wednesday, February 14 compared to data collected from the 4 previous Wednesdays, we discovered some interesting shifts in consumer behaviors. First, the overall percentage of restaurant visits going to casual dining concepts jumped from 18.4% to 27.6%. While that’s a solid jump, it’s down slightly from 2017, when casual dining concepts accounted for 29.2% of Valentine’s Day dinner visits.


Second, the most likely demographic to increase their casual dining visits on Valentine’s Day were lower-income customers. Even more interesting, singles visited at the highest rate across all marital status groups (note that “single” here means never married, not necessarily romantically unattached).


Customers will forego convenience on special occasions

To dig a little deeper and see what was driving those behavioral shifts, we used BrandGeek to look at trip motivation data collected from visit-detected surveys. While the top motivator for restaurant visits is typically location convenience, it’s no surprise Valentine’s Day diners are significantly more likely to cite a special occasion as their primary reason for visit.



However, it’s worth noting there was an uptick—both year over year and compared to the previous 4 Wednesdays—of customers citing a previous positive experience as the main reason for visit. It makes sense that with the shift toward lower-income, single demographics, customers would favor brands they felt they could count on.

Brands brought their A-game in 2018

If diners were, in fact, basing their decisions on likelihood to impress their valentines, casual dining brands didn’t disappoint. Customer satisfaction scores went up for just about every measure in Valentine’s Day 2018, with the only exceptions being Value and Seating Time. While the drop in seating time satisfaction is no surprise, given the increased traffic, the decrease in perception of value could also be attributed to the shift toward lower-income demographics with less disposable income.



Gearing up for your next big holiday

When it comes down to it, Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to make an impression—whether it’s customers hoping to win the favor of that special someone or brands looking to inspire loyalty. While I won’t pretend to have any great advice for the former (that would be another blog entirely), it’s clear the latter can benefit from having access to behavioral and feedback data that helps them tweak operational strategies and gauge their effectiveness in real time.


If you’re interested in learning more about BrandGeek, check out our short video.

Paul Tiedt
VP, Client Insights

Customer Experience Update