Yup, the recession might be hurting the afternoon daypart of restaurants in the country, but casual-dining chains are fighting back.
There is, in fact, a said ongoing lunch war between the best casual-dining chains, as they continue to retool their lunch promotions to offer their customers menu and time flexibility.
P.F. Chang’s China Bistro introduced their affordable lunch options, offering more than 20 choices in combos priced under $10, as well as Dim Sum Lunch priced at $7.45. Applebee’s also has its “Pick ‘n’ Pair” lunch which starts at $6.99 and offers customers 75 lunch combinations. Olive Garden’s chefs in quality chef hats offer its $6.95 limited-lunchtime offer, “Create Your Own,” while Chili’s is carrying on its $6-$7-$8 lunch combos.
“Competition became stiffer for the lunch daypart due to a number of factors,” said Leslie Kerr, Boston-based consultancy firm Intellaprice’s founder and president. “One is, of course, the recession, and there are other important ones. We’re not just talking about the customers’ wallets—competition and time are also significant players.”
“Lunch customers are not just concerned with price—they are now very time-sensitive,” said Kerr. “Majority of them need to come in and finish their lunch within a short timeframe, and have a lot of concepts to choose from—fast casuals and quick serves that can deliver speed and quality food at a price range of $7-$8.”
Executives of casual dining places claim that such lunch combos have boosted up daypart sales. P.F. Chang’s lunch offer brought about a 10% sales gain, while Chili’s traffic significantly increased. Applebee’s claim that with their 75 lunch combinations, their patrons do not get tired eating their lunch at any of the chain’s locations every day.
Combos also turn out to be beneficial to the operator—restaurants can limit the selections while appearing to offer options since the diners are free to choose from among their preferences and favorites. Having their chefs, in their cool chef hats, create multiple combinations gives the customers a reason to come by everyday, allowing them to enjoy different recipes each time they visit, and each one at great value.
Analysts give special emphasis to reasonable price points, value and variety when offering these combos.
As Kerr said, “as long as restaurateurs can keep up in offering affordable food costs, which is easy to do with these offers, the restaurants will stand to gain a lot on the move. It will defray the operational costs which are incurred throughout the day, and will boost traffic which will help increase the restaurant’s overall profitability.”