Article: “Low patronage expected to hurt chain restaurants” (Apr.2006)

excerpt:
"The first quarter probably left some chain restaurant operators wondering where their customers had gone.

Negative traffic numbers are expected to have hurt several big casual-dining names in the period, among them Applebee's International Inc., Brinker International Inc., Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores owner CBRL Group Inc. and P.F. Chang's China Bistro Inc.

Because of "decelerating traffic trends," Goldman Sachs & Co. restaurant analyst Steven Kron said those studying quarterly numbers should try to discern "whether traffic weakness is isolated to specific segments and companies … or if this is indicative of a marginal shift in consumer spending, which could affect the entire sector."

Sometimes menu price increases masked guest-count declines.

As they have in recent quarters, fast-food restaurants benefited from what Bear, Stearns & Co. termed a "tradedown" from casual-dining and family restaurants"

source: "Low patronage expected to hurt chain restaurants" by Richard Gibson (Contra Costa Times, Apr.11, 2006)

WaiterBell Angle: An interesting aspect of this article is that restaurant operators do not know why there is low patronage. This can be another example of the "customer feedback conundrum" in the restaurant industry. Not knowing crucial information like this prevents restaurants from being pro-active to address issues.

Also fast food, fast casual dining continues to expand. While the cheaper price is a major factor, there is another factor common to that sector which is self-service. Combine this report with the feelings expressed nationwide about restaurant customer service, and you have another possible reason why customers are not going to casual dining restaurants.

There is an opportunity for restaurants to distinguish themselves from others and add appeal to customers with empowered dining. The WaiterBell system is an affordable investment in the customer experience and your waitstaff that can make your restaurant's service another compelling quality for customers.

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