The Restaurant Marketing Group released its fourth annual 2010 Leaky Bucket Study indicating more restaurant brands were able to retain their customers in 2009 than they did in ’08. The Leaky Bucket Study calculates a brand's leak size and the higher the leak score, the more customers a brand is losing. For Leaky Bucket purposes, a lower number is obviously more desirable and indicates a higher level of customer retention.
Among restaurant brands fighting for sales in a slumping economy, those brands that best focused on offering their customers an improved customer experience were more likely to have given them a compelling reason to come back. It was shown that in a customer-driven market, the best way to retain customers is to focus on the guest experience.
The Bucket Study analyzed 146 of the nation's leading restaurant brands using 2,483 customer surveys conducted in March 2010. The Study identified the primary return intent factors to be the food quality, menu, atmosphere, value, location, service and family friendliness.
The Study also found that the overall “leakiness” of the restaurant industry has improved a bit in the last year. In 2009, the industry saw its’ leak size increase from 29 percent to 36 percent over ’08 numbers. The leakiness came down in the beginning of 2010 though, with a score of 32 percent that indicates most restaurants are now retaining more of their customers than they did in 2009. The main element for choosing a restaurant was determined to be pricing/specials/deals, followed by quality of food and convenience of location.
The Leakey Bucket Study also found that customers are changing their behaviors in a slow economy. Nearly half (48 percent) of restaurant customers reported eating out less often this year and 35 percent reporting they are now buying more food from grocery stores than they have in the past. With more restaurants to choose from than ever before, the restaurant industry continues to be a customer's marketplace, making the guest experience even more crucial to long-term survival.