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Booze is driving casual-dining visits

The drinks side of the menu—especially the beer list—is becoming as important as the food in attracting and retaining restaurant customers, according to CNBC's Tom Rotunno. In his latest "Consumer Nation" piece, he quotes David Decker, president of Consumer Edge Insight: "Alcoholic beverages can be a key driver of traffic, differentiation and loyalty." Two factors keep customers coming back: "selection" and "pricing."

Consumer Edge Insight recently surveyed customers to find out which casual-dining concepts did the best job of building loyalty with their beverage alcohol offerings. CNBC reported the results:

• 29% of respondents chose Buffalo Wild Wings as their top pick, saying they were "most likely to visit it most often due to its good selection of alcoholic beverages"
• 24% chose Applebee's, garnering the chain second place
• Outback Steakhouse and T.G.I. Friday's tied for third place with 22% each
• When asked which casual-dining brand they were "most likely to visit most often due to its good prices of alcoholic beverages," customers put Buffalo Wild Wings on top again with 30%
• Coming in second and third on the pricing question were Chili's at 23% and Ruby Tuesday at 22%

Buffalo Wild Wings, which even incorporates beer into its tagline—"Wings.Beer.Sports."—has gained fans by offering more than 50 different beer brands.

CNBC "Consumer Nation: Tracking the Pulse of America's Spenders;" September 22, 2013