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Another aspect that was rated as a factor in dining frequency was loyalty programs, the survey found.

While digital media had little impact on consumer dining decisions, 59 percent of those surveyed said loyalty programs were slightly or somewhat influential in their restaurant selections.

Mobile access is also increasingly a factor, though generally among younger consumers. According to the survey, 26 percent of consumers said they use their mobile devices for dining out in various ways, either to order and purchase food, or accessing the restaurant’s website.

“This is something that’s more generationally based,” said Harnischfeger, noting that few large chains, other than Starbucks, have really invested in developing mobile payment capability, in part because consumers aren’t necessarily asking for it. “Overall, there hasn’t been as much adoption as people were anticipating. It’s a chicken-and-egg thing.”

AlixPartners concluded that restaurant operators should develop strategies for building traffic, such as capitalizing on new dayparts like breakfast, and making use of new product channels.

Restaurant brands can maintain market share by increasing the perception of value, without using traditional discounting, the firm said, adding that they should also look for ways to meet the needs of specific demographic subsets, like Millennials or Hispanic diners.

Wall Street analyst Nicole Miller Regan, an analyst with Piper Jaffray who conducts a quarterly “State of the Industry” webinar series with AlixPartners, wrote in a recent report that 2014 will also bring more “blurring of lines” between restaurant segments.

“We expect this dynamic between limited- and full-service operators to continue as operators continue improving value propositions and further tailor dining experiences with added convenience offerings, increased menu relevance, and the deployment of enhanced service initiatives,” she wrote.

Contact Lisa Jennings at lisa.jennings@penton.com.
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout