Operators must not underestimate the ‘influence’ of the over-55s

Over-55 hospitality customers know what they like, and like what they know (Pic: Still Game/BBC Scotland)

OPERATORS chasing the approval of ‘young and digital savvy’ influencers take note – people aged 55 and over form the majority of key decision makers when it comes to choosing which hospitality venues to visit.

New market research, from hospitality tech provider Zonal and insight firm CGA by NIQ, found that 40% of ‘influencers’ are aged over 55 – nearly double the number aged under 25 years old (21%).

The data, based on a survey of more than 5000 UK adults, also found that a majority of consumers (61%) admitted that they were more ‘influenced than influencer’ – and likely to follow others both when choosing whether to go out at all, and then in the choice of venue for eating and drinking.

As such, said Zonal, the importance of the 55+ influencer group could not be understated. This group spends more time in the trade – a third (32%) drink out weekly – and on average spend £10 a month more on eating and drinking out than non-decision makers.

This demographic also tends to visit more venues than non-decision makers, visiting an average of over seven different brands in the last six months.

Commenting on the findings, Zonal’s chief sales and marketing officer, Olivia FitzGerald, said: “With the cost-of-living crisis squeezing consumer spending habits, it’s vital that operators have a good understanding, not only of the key drivers influencing customers’ decisions when it comes to eating and drinking out, but also who the decision makers are.

“Interestingly, those aged over 55 are highly-influential – a reminder that it is not just the young who wield purchasing power and operators would benefit in engaging this age group as much as others.

“Operators who can capitalise on these influences and influencers, and shape their communication, marketing and overall experience with these factors in mind, will ultimately gain that important advantage in an increasingly competitive market.”

Perhaps predictably whilst considering what these 55+ influencers prioritise in a hospitality experience, factors such as proximity to home (47%), value for money (35%), and serving a customer’s favourite food or drink (26%) came out on top in the consumer survey.

When asked about their most important source of information when it came to choosing a venue, 56% of respondents cited in-person recommendations from friends, family and colleagues, with Press sources relied upon by 26%, and friends’ recommendations via social media of relevance to 25% of those surveyed.

Bringing up the rear of hospitality recommendations were social media posts from brands, reviewers or bloggers, at 21%.

CGA by NIQ’s director of hospitality operators and food, Karl Chessell, commented: “Our research highlights how the cost-of-living crisis has sharpened people’s focus on price and made convenience and familiarity more important. These factors all play to the advantage of managed pub and restaurants groups, who tend to offer better value, accessibility and trust than independents.

“But with influential consumers now so demanding, brands need to deliver dependably great experiences,” he stressed.

“While digital avenues like social media, review sites and Instagrammers are increasingly important, our research makes clear that old-fashioned recommendations among friends are still the king of influences—and consistency is the best way to earn them.”