Pensioners can make a valuable contribution to restaurant sales, particularly during the daytime. Understand their likes and dislikes and make the most of this expanding market
Their pockets may not be deep as you’d like but pensioners do make obliging customers. Many like to eat at lunchtimes, prefer simple, traditional food and often ask for small portions! And best of all, with their flexible timetables and love of a bargain, the over 60s are more willing than most to be coaxed into your restaurant at quiet times. With pensioners in the UK now representing a staggering 25% of the total population, why aren’t restaurants doing more to encourage this potentially-lucrative section of market?
Pensioners are getting younger! Fifty years ago, eating out for the over 60s was a luxury reserved for special occasions. Today pensioners don’t need an excuse to treat themselves. Generally fitter and better off than ever before, they’re keen to make the most of their retirement and enjoying a meal in a restaurant is high on their list of pleasures.
Pensioners come in different shapes and sizes.
From the ‘baby boomers’ born just after the war who floated on ‘flower power’ to the over 90s who’ve lived through two World Wars. Their needs are unlikely to be the same but one thing they have in common is that they all appreciate good, wholesome food at reasonable prices.
Know your customer.
One basic principal of marketing is to match your product with your customer. This means identifying your target market and understanding its needs. The more research you do to find out what suits people in your particular area, the easier it will be to give them what they want.
An excellent market for lunchtime trade.
Many pensioners prefer to eat at lunchtimes but often want something simpler and cheaper than the full evening menu (the same is usually also true for workers and shoppers.) By offering a simple fixed-price lunch menu featuring traditional fare, restaurants can attract pensioners whilst also appealing to a wider audience – see our lunchtime specials feature
Pensioners don’t like to be patronised.
Our research shows that the over 60s can be sensitive about their age. The young retired don’t see themselves as old at all and many would deliberately avoid a promotion which included the word ‘pensioner’. Those in their 80s and 90s are equally keen not to be singled out, seeing it as mildly insulting to be treated differently because of their age. So how can a restaurant market to ‘seniors’ without causing offence? ‘Simple’, say our retired researchers ‘Just treat us like everyone else but with an extra portion of respect!’
A few suggestions . . . .
Be aware that older pensioners tend to prefer their vegetables well-cooked.
Offer smaller portions from your normal menu at a slightly reduced prices (for many pensioners leaving food is considered wasteful)
Put water on the table without being asked
Smile and make customers feel welcome. Pensioners say it’s as important as the food in making them want to come back
Organisations used by seniors are often on the lookout for suitable venues for their members so find out which clubs & societies your older customers belong to and make your pitch (see our feature on local interest groups)