When it comes to convenience stores, the trend is very different. C-stores had a much shallower drop at the start of the pandemic, which amounted to about half that of restaurants. They were helped by the fact that in most states, c-stores were put in the “essential” category, meaning that they could stay open even as other retail companies had to close up shop. Still, with traditional commuting patterns disrupted, c-stores took a bit of a hit.
As the COVID-19 crisis gripped the restaurant industry, a call went out for people to purchase gift cards to help keep restaurants afloat. The hope was that an increase in gift card sales would sustain restaurants while they converted to a future dominated by online ordering, takeout, and delivery.
An analysis of restaurant gift card sales in early 2020 reveals that the marketing effort worked but ultimately achieved mixed results. Overall, sales dropped during the pandemic, but that drop was much less severe than we saw in overall restaurant sales during that same period.
Around the same time we saw an increase in overall load amount on the cards purchased, with most of that increase happening in Casual and Fast Casual brands. This suggests that yes, the effort did manage to keep things from getting worse and provided restaurants with a much-needed kick. However, the actual impact on business is much more difficult to discern.
Gift card loads tend to hover around the $30 range for the industry as a whole, but in March we saw that number spike as high as $60, then settle in at about $15 higher than normal, eventually falling well below the normal benchmark.
Markets with the biggest impact
When we look closer, things vary through the industry. Fine Dining, for example, saw little movement in the average price of a gift card when compared year over year, while both Fast Casual and Casual Dining brands increases of between $10 and $30 on their average gift card sales. All that said, much of that lift was gone as we entered Q2.
It’s also worth noting that included in the “gift cards” category are recurring loads for things like app-based purchases. Your coffee app may ask for your credit card, but you are effectively buying a gift card when you reload, then spending that money over time.
Moving forward, however, we see that gift card sales remain well below last year’s levels as we head into Q2, with traditional bumps in sales that happen around Mother’s Day and Graduation season being much less pronounced than in previous years. It is possible that people have switched to more generic gift card offerings, like those from third party delivery services, but we have little evidence to draw a full conclusion.
This is worth watching. However, given that the vast majority of gift card sales happen during the holiday season, we won’t have a good idea of whether there are major changes to the marketplace until the end of 2020.
In a trend happening nationwide, we continue to see a recovery among our restaurant clients. Looking at the week-on-week data we can see that the run of positive weekly results has continued, with each day an average of ~5% to 10% higher than the week before. Mother’s Day, however, showed two interesting trends. First, it was a massive uptick from the previous Sunday, but check sizes were also higher than visits, indicating that people visited more expensive restaurants, or at least were ordering food for more people at once.
There is always a bump for Mother’s Day, but the difference this year from the previous trend shows tremendous pent-up demand from the market. Clearly people wanted to spoil mom.
Still, when we look at the fixed-period chart that compares sales to a pre-COVID baseline, we can see that visits and spend are still down, but up from the bottom. We’re a long way from a full recovery, but the trendlines are headed in the right direction.
Keeping your guests engaged in 2017 and beyond means having the right technology to provide a seamless digital customer experience. These days, it’s said that you need to be more than a restaurant, you also need to be a technology company. There are steps your restaurant can take to enter the technology realm and provide the digital experiences that will compel guests to choose your brand.
Domino’s Pizza® has earned its reputation as a technology company by innovating the way it connects with its customers. In 2010, a change in leadership brought forward a tech-minded philosophy, and the results speak for themselves. Domino’s same store sales grew by 12 percent in 2015 alone, and the stock price has grown from $3.15 in late 2008 to $177.94 as of the writing of this article, so it’s safe to say its technology investments are paying off!
So what does Domino’s Pizza do so well? Here are three critical elements of Domino’s digital-focused guest engagement strategy that you can follow: […]