The old saying “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” is true for your health — and a new study shows that it may be true for your business as well.
Sense360 did an analysis of five million restaurant visits and found that quick-serve restaurants’ most loyal customers come out for breakfast. Data shows that visits from frequent customers spike in the morning across all categories of QSRs, but that spike is particularly pronounced among coffee shops.
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This shows that customers who show up in the morning often return each day, while those who visit in the afternoon are less likely to return on a regular basis. This may be a function of habit. Many people have morning routines, so a restaurant or coffee shop that opens in the morning and/or serves breakfast becomes part of that routine — creating loyalty.
Coffee chains aren’t the only ones benefiting from morning customers. Frequent customers in the burger category are almost twice as likely to visit in the morning hours as casual customers are. It also holds true for other surprising categories — ones that we don’t usually associate with breakfast — including restaurants that specialize in chicken, Mexican food, Asian cuisines, and sandwiches.
The idea that breakfast or morning customers are more loyal is backed up by other sources as well.
Foursquare’s Quick-Service Restaurant Loyalty Index ranked the top-50 chains in the United States according to customer loyalty. They measured foot traffic in four ways: (1) The average number of visits per diner per year; (2) market penetration — based on the regions in which the chain exists; (3) share of wallet; and (4) fanaticism threshold.
Its most recent index crowned Starbucks number one for loyal customers, with McDonalds and Dunkin’ Donuts rounding out the top three. What do all of the top three and more have in common? They serve breakfast.
How to create loyalty with morning customers
If you can become part of customers’ morning routine, they are more likely to become frequent customers. But there are things you can do to help that.
If you run a QSR that isn’t open in the morning, you first need to determine whether the cost of opening earlier makes sense for your bottom line. That means weighing operating costs (the costs of employees, inventory, marketing, etc.) against expected sales. (Make sure you look at your POS analytics to help you forecast.)
If you determine that it could make sense for you to open in the mornings, but you are still hesitant, think about running a test. Open earlier for a week and see what kind of business you do. Or better yet, survey your current customers and see which ones would want to come in early.
If you decide to start a breakfast service, make sure you get the word out. Email your customers, post on social, update your website. You might even run a promotion for the first week with new hours.
If you run a QSR that is already open for breakfast, then you may already know that your most loyal customers visit in the morning. To encourage more of that behavior, here are a few things you could try:
- Start a loyalty program that rewards frequent customers. If you’re a coffee shop, maybe reward loyal patrons with free drinks or treats, for example. Look for a digital loyalty program that integrates with your POS system, so you can monitor the behaviors of your most frequent customers.
- Update your menu to align with your customers’ preferences. Study your sales data to see which products are bought most often, then survey your customers to see what it is they like about those products or what they would like to see more of in your shop.
If you have a lot of younger customers, look into healthier options. Of the 14,700 U.S. consumers surveyed by Foursquare, the millennials in the group were twice as likely as boomers to cite a lack of healthy options as a barrier for loyalty.
- Deliver personalized messaging and promotions to your customers. With Square’s POS, you can capture email addresses during the payment process. You can then email new customers with a personalized welcome. If your customer tells you their birthday, you could even do a personalized birthday promotion.
According to data from Square’s email marketing platform, automated birthday offers generate the highest engagement, with open rates and redemptions more than 2.5 times higher than the average across all types of email campaigns. And personalized automated email — like welcome messages, birthday offers, and winback campaigns — far outperforms one-off campaigns to your entire customer list.