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NPD Analyzes How Seasonal Beverages Spice Up Business

CHICAGO — The annual tradition of limited-time offer pumpkin specialty drinks makes fall a favorite time of year for foodservice operators that offer them, as their business benefits in more ways than one, according to The NPD Group.

Seasonal beverage offers can spur additional purchases by established customers, bring in new customers, draw customers from competitors and stimulate business during slow periods, according to NPD's Checkout Tracking, which uses receipts from more than 35,000 diners to track consumer purchase behavior.

An analysis of the purchase cycle of pumpkin spice latte buyers shows that these drinks are likely to be considered an "indulgent" purchase that 72 percent of these purchasers bought only once. Approximately 20 percent of pumpkin spice latte customers purchased the item twice, and about 8 percent made three or more purchases during the offer period.

Seasonal beverages also produce higher checks. During fall and winter 2014, the average check for pumpkin latte buyers was $7.81, compared with $6.67 for non-buyers, NPD found. Similarly, the average check for those who bought fellow popular seasonal beverage white mocha 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.

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. Data showed that these shake purchasers tended to be the restaurant's most loyal customers and had higher purchase frequency rates, particularly during the promotional period. Shake buyers made 5.7 visits in the two-month period before the limited-time offer, and one additional visit during the limited-time offer period. 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," said 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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