There has been much discussion about discounting in the restaurant business over the past few years. Many in the industry worried that serial discounting would forever cheapen their brand and condition customers to be coupon hunters rather than loyal patrons.
That’s why it was interesting to see the results of a comprehensive study released by a British brand management firm recently. The Nunwood Customer Experience Management (CEM) Top 100 surveyed 5,000 consumers in the United States in order to determine which brands have the best perception among the American public.
To many, Red Lobster’s third place finish was a shock. The seafood chain beat out top brands like Apple, Southwest Airlines, and Marriot. Red Lobster is known for their affordable seafood fare – in fact, they have been discounting what is usually considered an expensive menu item for years.
Respondents to the Nunwood survey raved about Red Lobster’s dedication to providing value and top-notch customer service.
Marrying the two seems to be the key to branding success in food service. Other top 25 finishers included Subway, Applebee’s, and Chili’s – all brands that have engaged in some of the most aggressive discounting in the food service industry over the last three years. Adding those discounts to a culture of customer service equals a combination these national restaurant chains have been winning with for years.
The time has come for those in the food service industry who fret about coupons and discounts compromising the value of their brand to realize that not only are discounts here to stay, they are the driver behind customer perception of your business.
As the top chains in the industry have irrefutably proven, the formula of getting customers in the door with deep discounts and then treating them like royalty is the way to earn their respect and loyalty.
Contrary to a popular belief among restaurateurs, the practice of deep discounting to get butts in seats has not hurt the images of these brands but enhanced them so much that they now compete with the biggest brands in America in terms of perceived value. And that perception is certainly worth much more than any discount.