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consumer picks

Fresh, flavorful food and successful LTOs drive consumer loyalty

NRN presents Consumer Picks, a comprehensive look at customer preference and restaurant brand strength. This annual special report is produced with Datassential. Get the full report >>

How can a brand successfully earn customer loyalty? The key ingredients are in the data. During this year’s MUFSO conference in Dallas, I had the privilege to serve on the Consumer Picks panel with leaders from four of the country’s top restaurant chains: Papa Murphy’s Take N’ Bake Pizza, Pei Wei Asian Diner, Red Lobster and Whataburger. These four chains scored in the top 10 this year for True Brand Loyalty. True Brand Loyalty isn’t just about measuring the convenience or repeat visits — it considers the consumer’s true desire to visit the restaurant. True Brand Loyalty is tracked with survey data from Datassential BrandFingerprints, which uncovers unique factors that set a chain apart. Let’s explore a few of the areas where these four brands hit the high mark for True Brand Loyalty.

Papa Murphy’s Take N’ Bake Pizza gains loyalty by placing emphasis on providing a fresh product. When compared to other limited-service pizza players, it has a 20-point advantage for freshness and high-quality food. Papa Murphy’s staff makes the dough in-house daily and slices vegetables by hand. Also contributing to its loyalty score is the unique product style it offers — pizzas consumers can bake fresh in the comfort of their home.

Related: Top brands ranked by customer loyalty: Consumer Picks 2017

Whataburger is another chain that also closely monitors the quality of its food, giving it a 16-point advantage over other limited-service burger chains for taste, freshness and portion sizes. Whataburger’s loyalty is also boosted through providing an excellent customer experience. The chain’s staff brings food out to customers’ tables, creating another touchpoint and increasing its score by having a helpful and friendly staff. Beyond freshness and the customer experience, consumers also have been known to stay loyal when chains feature innovative experiences and flavors.

Limited-time offers can give consumers the chance to experiment with new flavors in safe and familiar dishes, such as burgers and pizza. Asian fast-casual Pei Wei scores high for its use of LTOs as 27 percent of its customers visit the restaurant just to try them — 18 points higher than other fast-casual chains. Pei Wei’s LTOs, like its chicken gyoza and teriyaki Asian street tacos, have earned high branded purchase intent ratings and overall trust for consumers to try something new or an interesting mashup of flavors. Red Lobster is a destination for special occasion visits and LTOs — 70 percent of customers visit just for them, along with seasonal campaigns like Lobsterfest.

Related: Pei Wei: Rewarding loyal guests

These four brands have demonstrated that by highlighting their strengths, they can draw in consumers and capture their hearts through their stomachs.

Kelley Bailie Fechner is the director customer solutions at Datassential.

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