Study: Restaurants improve customer retention rates

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Overall, the highest customer retention rates were at McDonald’s, which saw a moderate increase in the first quarter to 78 percent, compared with 76.5 percent last year. Of those consumers surveyed this year, 62 percent said they had been to a McDonald’s in the past month, compared with 79.5 percent that had visited within six months.

Meichenbaum said it’s more difficult for chains like McDonald’s to move their Customer Retention Index needle because their customer universe is so big.

Within the quick-service and fast-casual segments, Panera Bread, KFC and Sonic had declines in their Customer Retention Index rates, according to the report.

At Panera, for example, total visitation in absolute number was up, but the chain’s ability to keep customers coming back within six months is what caused the index to decline, said Meichenbaum.

In casual and family dining, Olive Garden showed the most improved Customer Retention Index with 47.2 percent for the first quarter of 2012, compared with 40.5 percent the same time last year. Only Buffalo Wild Wings scored higher this year, with a Customer Retention Index of 47.4 percent, compared with 44 percent last year.

On The Border’s index increased from 37.7 percent last year to 41.7 percent this year, and The Cheesecake Factory’s index grew from 35.6 percent to 39.6 percent this year.

However, declining customer retention rates were recorded for Denny’s, California Pizza Kitchen and Cracker Barrel. At all three brands, the number of respondents who said they visited during the past month declined year over year, which negatively impacted the overall index.

Contact Lisa Jennings at lisa.jennings@penton.com.
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout