Only 16 per cent of hospitality businesses believe vouchers are important in generating sales in 2014, and 18 per cent never use vouchers at all, according to a study led by technology provider Omnico Group.
The survey, conducted on over 5,000 UK consumers and 173 business leaders, showed that restaurateurs considered tracking customer feedback (82 per cent) and social media (77 per cent) as much more important marketing activities.
In an interview with BigHospitality, Ed’s Diner CEO Andrew Guy explained that vouchers were a dangerous habit to take. “The experience of those restaurants that have used vouchers a lot is that it’s a habit you can’t get out of. If a substantial proportion of your customers come to you because they got a voucher, which they can get a hold of very easily, when you cut off the vouchers your number of customers drop, because you’ve represented yourself as a business with a substantial proportion of customers that only come when they get a voucher, resulting in a permanent discount of your products,” he said.
However, businesses’ approach is in contrast with consumer preferences, as 53 per cent of diners cite vouchers as the top reason for visiting a hospitality outlet, according to the Omnico survey. So what can restaurants do to meet that demand without compromising the long-term health of their business?
“That’s not easy, but you’ve got to try and make yourself very attractive to customers without vouchers. There are a lot of very busy places that don’t have vouchers. They do have promotions but only for loyalty card members, and only a couple of times a year for a couple of weeks. Our loyalty club members have no idea when their next offer will arrive, they’re not looking for it, and when it comes it’s a nice surprise. Once you got yourself into the voucher trap it’s very difficult to get out of it, so don’t get yourself into it in the first place,” Guy continued.
The study also found that half of British consumers would be more likely to return to a venue if it had loyalty cards, with 39 per cent preferring email offer and 27 per cent choosing stamp cards. Meanwhile loyalty cards came second to last as the preferred marketing technique among restaurateurs with 36 per cent of them choosing to use this scheme to drive sales.
“With so much choice available for customers in the hospitality space, it’s vital that hospitality outlets gain their customers’ long-term loyalty,” said Matthew Cox, hospitality division at Omnico Group. “Whilst it’s important to invest in tracking customer feedback, food and drink outlets must encourage spending. Having an effective system in place to provide customers with personalised vouchers tailored to their needs will ensure loyalty in a crowded market and track their behaviour.”