Pumpkin Beverages Spice Up Business for Restaurateurs

CHICAGO — One foodservice researcher has discovered that pumpkin specialty drinks for a limited, seasonal time benefits businesses. Limited time offers for pumpkin specialty drinks can spur additional purchases by established customers, bring in new customers, draw customers from competitors, and stimulate business during slow periods.

An analysis of the purchase cycle of pumpkin spice latte buyers reveals that these lattes are likely considered to be an "indulgent" purchase, and the vast majority of these purchasers, 72 percent, did so just once, according to research from NPD's Checkout Tracking, which harvests receipts from more than 35,000 diners to track consumer purchase behavior. About 20 percent of pumpkin spice latte customers purchased the item twice, and about 8 percent made three or more purchases during the offer period.

In addition to increasing visits and visit frequency, seasonal beverages also produce higher checks, NPD found. During fall and winter 2014, the average check for pumpkin latte buyers was $7.81, compared with $6.67 for non-buyers. Similarly, the average check for buyers of white mocha, another popular seasonal beverage, was $8.37, compared with just $6.84 for non-buyers. Consumers' purchase of food items in addition to the beverage contributed to the higher check average, according to the Checkout Tracking analysis.

To determine the impact of limited-time offers on visit frequency, NPD also examined the purchase cycle of a seasonal shake offer at another major chain. The data revealed that these shake purchasers tended to be the restaurant's most loyal customers, with higher purchase frequency rates, especially during the promotional period. Shake buyers made 5.7 visits in the two-month period before the limited-time offer and made an additional visit during the limited-time offer period. Meanwhile non-shake buyers made only 4.7 visits prior to the promotion and 4.4 visits during the limited-time offer.

"Considering the battle for traffic share in the restaurant industry, it's critical to offer unique, craveable menu items that attract both new customers and keep current ones coming back," says Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst. "For the restaurant operator, seasonal beverages have a positive impact on visit frequency and check averages as consumers tend to purchase food along with the seasonal beverage. It doesn't get much better than that."

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