Sponsored by Dinova
The U.S. business travel economy is big. Staggeringly big. A recent Global Business Travel Association report said that in 2016, about 514 million domestic business trips accounted for $547 billion in spending. That’s nearly 3% of the U.S. GDP, and there are no signs that business travel spending is slowing down. In fact, it’s projected to grow another 6% by the end of 2018.
“Face to face interaction enabled by business travel remains a critical business tool,” said David Reimer, Senior Vice President and General Manager, North America, American Express Global Business Travel. “To sustain business travel’s economic impact, our industry must continue to evolve to meet the needs of these travelers.”
The same goes for the restaurant industry, which also has a huge opportunity in business travel customers. The GBTA report found that Food & Beverage is now the second largest expense account spending category (tied with Airfare.)
By understanding these business customers, catering to their needs, and finding ways to attract them, restaurants stand to profit royally.
The habits of business travelers
October is the busiest month of the year for business travel, as professionals look to squeeze in important face-to-face meetings before the holiday season. According to a study by Hertz, the most popular day of the week for business travel is Monday, with the average business trip lasting 3.5 days.
What’s the nature of these trips? According to the GBTA study, just under half were for ad-hoc purposes (e.g., to attend sales trips or client meetings.) Another 28% were for group travel, and the remaining 25% were a combination of business and leisure. Let’s look at how restaurants can deliver spot-on experiences for each of these segments -- each of whom have different needs and preferences while traveling.
The solo traveler
Whether they’re hitting the road for a single sales call, presentation, or day full of meetings, “transient” business travelers likely have a couple things in common: they’re time-crunched, and they’re exhausted.
These road warriors will often need to multitask, so having amenities like free, reliable WiFi is a must to keep them coming back to your restaurant. They may need to get in and out quickly during the breakfast and lunch segments, and restaurant technologies like mobile apps to pre-order and pay can be key. Having healthy items on your menu might also be a breath of fresh air for these diners, who often lament that they “eat worse” while traveling.
At the end of the day, while you may still see them with their laptops open, they’re looking to unwind. This traveler will appreciate drink specials and a quiet, somewhat private setting for solo diners.
Business travel groups
While they’re still working (and still require WiFi and other restaurant amenities), group travelers are often looking to have some fun with their colleagues. Oftentimes, they’re in town for a conference or industry event. Consider keeping these events on your radar (and in your marketing plans) as they draw scores of out-of-towners who are dining on their company’s dime.
In research conducted by Dinova, 45% of companies who host hospitality suites at conferences either always or frequently order catering services from local restaurants. There is a huge benefit for restaurants who have access to meeting and event planners.
There’s also plenty of business to be gained from group business travelers after hours -- during happy hour and dinner. A fun happy hour atmosphere and beverage selection can help draw them.
The business + leisure traveler
The GBTA reported that in the past year, over a third of North American business travelers extended a work trip for leisure. The “business + leisure” trend has even spawned a new term: “bleisure.”
Many of these travelers are Millennials, looking for new experiences and a bit of local culture. Consider including local or featured items on your menu (bonus points if the food is Instagrammable.)
Also keep in mind that these modern travelers are using technology to support their experience with 48% using a dining app to discover new restaurants and 38% using travel apps provided by their companies. Getting access to those travel apps is no small task, so having a partner that understands how to navigate the corporate travel landscape is key.
A fail-safe way to attract more ‘business’ business
Catering to business travelers’ needs will keep them coming back to your restaurant. But how do you get them through the door in the first place? You could spend your money on the usual advertising channels. Or, you could reach profitable business diners directly with a marketing program that costs you nothing upfront (and pays for itself in incremental revenue.)
Learn more about this self-funding program by visiting Dinova.