You clip coupons faithfully before heading to the grocery store, in order to avoid having to pay full price for your home-prepared meals. So why should you be expected to throw financial caution to the wind when it comes time to eat out?

A new study notes that restaurant visits are on the decline, and those who are willing to pay full price are in the minority. So how can restaurant owners encourage more of us to visit?

The answer could be coupons.

Valassis is out with a new study, entitled “Defining the Coupon & Value Restaurant Consumer”. It finds that diners are hungry for deals – and restaurants that don’t offer them, could end up paying the price.

In a consumer survey, Valassis found that 77% of respondents said they use restaurant coupons, and 25% use them at least once a week. But if they can’t find any coupons – they’re likely to stay home.

“In the face of growing trends like meal kits, food delivery and appliances like Instant Pot, more people are choosing to eat at home,” the report reads. It cites research by the NPD Group, which found that the average American dined out 216 times a year back in 2000, but that number dropped to 185 last year.

So coupons could tempt more diners to set aside their Instant Pot and visit a restaurant – and keep them coming back.


The study found that full-price purchasers account for only 17% of restaurant visits. Value seekers, who want deals but aren’t necessarily using coupons, account for a whopping 70% of visits, while coupon-savvy diners make up 13%.

With the value-seeking segment potentially maxed out, the best opportunity for growth could be among the coupon savvy. “To grow your business,” the report advises restaurants, “you need to attract new customers and segments other than the value-menu oriented.”

In other words, the report says, to attract more diners, restaurants need to “wave coupons under their noses”.

The report found that coupon users go to restaurants a lot more often than non-coupon users – making 7 visits per month versus non-coupon users’ 4.8 visits. As you might imagine, most coupon use tends to happen at fast food restaurants, with 50% of patrons saying they have used coupons there. But interest in coupons is also strong among visitors to fast casual restaurants, coffee shops, pizzerias – and 14% of survey respondents said they have used a coupon at a “fine dining” establishment.

Nothing says good living like tablecloths, candlelight and coupons!

The report also found that coupons not only get customers in the door, but help determine which door they decide to enter. When deciding among several restaurants, 54% say they will pick the one that offers a coupon, with 61% of parents agreeing that a coupon will be the deciding factor. And nearly a third of diners are “switchers” and can be swayed to change their dining habits with a coupon. When asked “if you had a coupon for another restaurant, would you visit that restaurant instead of your favorite?”, almost 70% said yes, if it was nearby. An additional 10% said they wouldn’t mind going out of their way to use the coupon.

And when it comes to the types of coupons they prefer, coupons in the mail are the best option for fast food, family-style and pizza restaurant goers, while fast casual and fine dining customers prefer emailed coupons, and coffee shop visitors like to get their discounts via mobile app.

“Consumers’ desire for savings is strong across purchase categories and the restaurant market is no exception,” Dana Baggett, Executive Director of Valassis’ Restaurant Team, said in a statement. “When restaurants make an up-front investment in offering incentives to diners, they… will attract diners and drive consumer spend.”

So the next time you decide to eat out, don’t settle for paying full price. The deals are out there – and if more restaurants take Valassis’ advice, you won’t have to sit at home with your Instant Pot anymore in order to save money on your next meal.

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  1. Pingback: 5 Ways Fast-Food Joints Entice You To Part With Your Money

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