The Pert Group Survey: Leftovers Lead to Loyalty

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New study shows consumers reward restaurants, including McDonald’s® and Subway®, for food donation programs

“In The Pert Group survey, one-third of consumers said they would increase visits to a restaurant that has a food donation program in place."

Restaurant chains in America – from quick serve to casual dining – can build consumer loyalty through food donation programs according to a new survey by The Pert Group, a global research-based consulting firm. However, the study determined, helping to feed the hungry isn’t enough: how restaurants communicate their philanthropy makes a big difference.

“In The Pert Group survey, one-third of consumers said they would increase visits to a restaurant that has a food donation program in place,” says Mark Wilson, group director for restaurant/food service. “Unfortunately, while many restaurant chains do donate leftovers, they aren’t getting the word out. They’re missing this opportunity to build loyalty and repeat business.”

Across the board, the study found that most consumers “aren’t sure” or “don’t know” if restaurants donate food to the needy. Restaurants in The Pert Group survey included: Applebee’s®, IHOP®, KFC®, McDonald’s, Olive Garden®, Pizza Hut®, Red Lobster® and Subway.

According to Steve Dietz, business development director at the Food Donation Connection, most of the restaurants in The Pert Group Survey do partner with his organization to donate surplus food. Dietz says contributions from these restaurant chains and others play an essential role in efforts to eliminate hunger.

“Over 15,000 donor locations in the U.S. and Canada have donated over 250 million pounds of surplus food since the Food Donation Connection began coordinating restaurant donation programs in 1992,” Dietz says. “But with 35 million food-insecure Americans and 96 billion pounds of surplus food being discarded each year, we still have a lot of ground to cover.”    

Lacking information on community involvement
On a broader level, when asked about restaurants with community involvement activities, 51% of consumers cited McDonald’s and 37% mentioned Subway. No casual dining restaurant demonstrated a strong community presence: Applebee’s led the pack, but was cited by less than one-fourth of consumers.

“Based on The Pert Group experience with food service clients throughout the industry, we know philanthropy is a sensitive area for communications,” says Susan Spaulding, executive vice president and principal. “Consumers definitely sense when companies are insincere or not really committed to a cause. For their part, restaurant management may think publicizing donations is inappropriate.

“Effective communication isn’t self-serving,” Spaulding says. “It can be used to promote other community involvement activities, while sending a powerful, positive message about the brand.”

In addition, effectively communicating about food donations can bolster the positive impact participating restaurants have throughout America.

“The need for food in America is greater than ever in these difficult economic times,” says Dietz, with the Food Donation Connection. “Donating surplus prepared foods is a safe, easy and socially responsible way to help address the problem of hunger.”

Survey specifics
The Pert Group Omnibus Survey was conducted from May 10-13, 2012, with 1,002 interviews completed. Respondents were 48% male; 52% female. Contact The Pert Group for detailed demographic information.

About The Pert Group
The Pert Group is a global leader in research-based consulting, headquartered in Farmington, Conn., with offices in Kansas City, Mo., Pittsburgh, Penn., and London. Established in 1978, the company integrates financial, attitudinal and behavioral information to bring clarity to business, brand and marketing decision making. Providing comprehensive decision support in the areas of Innovation, Positioning and Performance, The Pert Group facilitates growth strategies and improves business outcomes for local, national and international clients. The Pert Group is a long-standing member of the Council of American Survey Research Organizations (CASRO) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR). For more information, visit thepertgroup.com.

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Cheri Tabel
The Pert Group
(816) 842-0020 1357
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