Sponsored by Dinova.
In the restaurant business, weekends are a figurative and literal rush: Dining rooms are filled with the buzz of a week’s worth of catching up, and restaurant staff runs around while a shift flies past.
However, during the week, restaurants may struggle to fill their seats, and you as restaurant owners and managers may think you’re already pulling out all the stops to encourage weekday dining.
But what if you only thought you are inviting everyone to your restaurant and understanding all of your customers? You may not know about the expense account diner, a customer who’s markedly different from a local weekday – or weekend – restaurant patron.
Expense account diners are dining on their company’s dime. They’re out-of-town travelers on business, event planners, department teams ordering takeout or delivery, and salespeople entertaining clients with private dining or catering, and they’re all expensing that dining check out to their companies when they return home.
“In the current business climate, corporate restaurant traffic drives profits and keeps most metrics positive,” said Vic Macchio, founder and CEO of Dinova, a company that connects restaurants and corporations nationwide. “Corporate guests are increasing average check sizes and delivering high margin business to restaurants.”
Up to 70% of the business Dinova delivers comes from out-of-town business travelers. So while you may already have regular patrons from the corporate headquarters next door to your restaurant, expense account diners are not local to your restaurant, group or franchise location.
Weekday, odd-hours traffic
Moreover, expense account diners provide weekday restaurant business. They fill seats and use catering Monday through Thursday, when you need the business most.
“Companies are putting their people on the road to service existing customers and win new business,” Macchio said. “The current climate serves restaurant owners and marketers well, particularly those that have invested in building relationships with corporations that are increasingly steering their employees and event planners to preferred restaurants.”
Traveling expense account diners arrive in a city at all hours of the day, from different time zones, and they need to eat somewhere when they land. They fill weekday seats during non-peak hours, including early afternoon for lunch and early evening and late evening for dinner.
Group dining traffic
Expense account dinners order catering for departmental teams, dine in large groups in restaurants’ private rooms and entertain clients with great dining experiences.
Dan Drummond, former chief marketing officer for the 102-unit Addison, Texas-based Bar Louie Restaurants sees expense account diners booking private rooms for special office events and holiday parties. “Some [of our] locations have private rooms and you can move tables around to accommodate parties of various sizes and shapes,” he said in a November article in Nation’s Restaurant News.
High-spending, high-margin traffic
And there’s an added bonus to the expense account diner – literally. Drummond said expense account diners spend about 68 percent more than typical non-expense-account customers. Plus, Dinova reports that expense account diners buy more high-margin items, such as appetizers, desserts and alcohol.
Not only do expense account diners spend more than typical consumers, Drummond said, but they also provide the brand the opportunity to provide a first-time trial to a new market.
“I believe that the [expense account diner] can try us for the first time — clearly we don’t have 100 percent brand awareness in our markets — and they are essentially eating us on someone else’s dime,” he said. “That’s a low cost of entry.”