Casual Dining Loyalty: Buffalo Wild Wings, Old Chicago Pizza, Denny’s Show The Way

Foursquare's Michael Rosen charts the "Fanaticism Threshold" that keeps casual dining guests coming back for more.

Casual dining restaurants have been buffeted by two trends: on-demand delivery, which keeps people at home (and spending less on average), chain saturation, and the intensifying competition for finite customers’ repeat business.

To get a sense of what casual dining brands are succeeding in attracting foot-traffic, and most importantly, what keeps regular customers coming back, Foursquare has released its CDR Loyalty Index, which ranks Restaurant Business Online’s list of the top casual chains earning over $100 million annually by customer loyalty.

Foursquare measured loyalty using four key metrics:

Visit Frequency: The average number of visits per diner within a year.

Market Penetration: The percentage of all CDR diners who visited the chain within a year. (Penetration was only measured for regions in which the chain exists, so a northeast chain, for example, was not impacted for its regionality.)

Share of Wallet: The percentage of the consumer’s total CDR visits that a particular chain captures within a year.

Fanaticism Threshold: The number of visits within a year required for a customer to be within the top 1 percent of customers who visit a particular chain, on a scale of 1 to 50.

The Foursquare Loyalty Index

By those measures, Foursquare has named Buffalo Wild Wings as the top spot thanks, citing its high penetration and share of wallet, Michael Rosen, Foursquare SVP of Sales, writes in a blog post.

“Fanaticism” at Buffalo Wild Wings also saw gains year-over-year, “due in part to a contingent of superfans most likely going wild for the chain’s Blazin’ Rewards loyalty program, which expanded in 2017 to serve all 1200+ locations,” Rosen says.

The loyalty index had the wing-centered sports bar was followed by like Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom, Denny’s, Applebee’s, and IHOP.

When it comes to what gets people out of the house on a regular basis, Foursquare found that emphasis on beer selection and specials appeared to have done the trick in most cases, when it comes to connecting and reconnecting casual dining establishments and customers.

Secondly, to address the apparent glut of casual dining spots, forming alliances in certain markets has also proved helpful, according to Foursquare.

“It’s been a pivotal year for restaurant acquisitions, as smart brand mergers help brands increase industry presence, capture new audiences, and drive overall share of wallet,” Rosen says. “Many of this year’s winning brands benefited from teaming up. For example, Buffalo Wild Wings (#1) recently joined forces with Arby’s; Ninety Nine Restaurant (#11) merged with J.Alexander’s (#39); and Olive Garden (#32) owner Darden bought Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen (#47).”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.