Easter By The Numbers

Photo referenced from Grand Forks gourmet.

According to a recent survey by the National Restaurant Association, Easter ranks as the fifth most popular holiday for dining out.  Following up behind Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Father’s Day, and New Year’s Eve, Easter takes the distinction as the only religious holiday in the top five.  Naturally, most people associate Easter dining out with the brunch crowd looking for a meal after church services.  So, you may be surprised to know that lunch and dinner restaurant services on Easter are actually significantly more popular than brunch.

In 2013, an estimated 33 million people shared Easter meals at restaurants.  A surprising 20% of those people planned to enjoy more than one meal at a restaurant on this April holiday.  Not only is Easter a prime holiday in the restaurant industry and the only religious holiday to rank in the top five, it is also the most family-centric of the holidays listed above.  So, what does this mean for industry professionals?  Perhaps a new marketing strategy to best capture the Easter audience is in order?  Taking into account tradition and a family focus could go a long way in boosting sales for Easter.

While the NRA study found that 48% of diners would choose their favorite restaurant for an Easter meal, regardless of holiday specials, that leaves more than half of consumers to sway your way.  There are many traditional Easter dishes we all look forward to such as lamb, ham, hot cross buns, mashed potatoes, and deviled eggs.  The question becomes, how do chefs and restaurant owners plan for meals that will bring in these new diners on such an important day?

Buffets are likely to already be in your plans, and rightly so with 51% of diners seeking them out for Easter.  While lamb pre-dates ham as the traditional main dish for Easter, 39% desire ham as lamb falls to the bottom of the wish list.  Halloween will always take the cake in terms of candy sales, but Easter isn’t far behind.  Therefore, it should come as no surprise that 37% of patrons are lured in by pastries.  Conjure up some special desserts or create a buffet just for those with a sweet tooth.  Whatever you do, don’t forget dessert.

Clearly, it isn’t possible to please all customers all the time or create a menu ideal to everyone, but these numbers give industry professionals a great starting point.  Due to the now highly symbolic nature of dyed eggs, egg hunts, and the ever-elusive Easter bunny, diners are still looking to see these incorporated in restaurant offerings.  The moral of the story?  Focus on the menu’s appeal to guests, but don’t leave out the holiday traditions.  Whether switching to pastel tablecloths or hosting an Easter egg hunt for the kids, providing guests with an immersive yet traditional experience is likely to garner the most support.


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