The summer months aren't necessarily all fun in the sun for those in the restaurant industry. Weather fluctuations—from heavy rain to hot spells—can significantly impact foot traffic to dining establishments. However, recent findings suggest that the effect of summer weather fluctuations on consumer dining patterns can best be understood by looking at two key factors: temperature and precipitation.
In order to quantify the impact of temperature and precipitation on restaurant visitation, we combined AccuWeather's weather data with Foursquare's proprietary foot traffic panel of 13 million always-on U.S. users, documenting and demonstrating consumer insights that restaurants can use during different summer weather conditions. To give restaurants a better idea of how summer weather dynamics impact cities, we've also homed in on dining patterns in New York City, Chicago and Atlanta, with a specific focus on New York City (NYC). Here’s what our partnership revealed:
Summertime Dining Insights
Our research shows that summer precipitation has a meaningful effect on foot traffic to restaurants. The biggest takeaways are:
While our findings might confirm what you've already suspected —that rain tends to keep consumers huddled indoors —the NYC results suggest that this doesn't necessarily hold true in every city. Restaurants located in similar large, dense metropolitan areas where pedestrian activity is prevalent, such as Boston or San Francisco, should consider this in their marketing efforts on summer days with light rain.
Summer temperature variations also have a significant effect on restaurant foot traffic. For the purpose of this study, we identified unusually warm and hot days above average summer temperatures in New York City, Chicago and Atlanta and unusually cool days below average summer temperatures for these cities. Here are some of our key findings:
On unusually warm and hot summer days, people may be more apt to enjoy their day at the beach or in a park picnicking or grilling, instead of eating out. Cooler summer days conversely result in more people than usual gravitating towards restaurant experiences.
New York City foot traffic trends indicate that hot days keep people out of restaurants. It's no wonder, as skyscrapers and buildings tend to trap in the heat in big cities, making hot days that much more unpleasant outside. The increase in NYC foot traffic on cool summer days, with average temperatures below 72.7 degrees, shows that this can be the biggest sweet spot for restaurants in urban areas, as consumers feel the most comfortable taking a stroll or bike ride to grab a bite to eat. Urban restaurants should therefore flex most of their summer marketing muscle on driving foot traffic on cool days, and consider promoting delivery services on the hottest ones.
Maximizing Restaurant Foot Traffic
Restaurants’ strategies to capitalize on summer temperature variations will depend on the city as well as the type of cuisine. While most restaurants see a dip in foot traffic on unusually hot days, certain types of cuisine actually see an uptick in foot traffic. Below we've outlined these foot traffic lifts on unusually hot days for specific types of cuisine:
No matter what kind of establishment, it's crucial that restaurants make data-driven marketing decisions, using both location and weather insights, to market to the right customers, at the right time, in the right place as summer weather changes.
Making the Most Out of First Party Data
Real-world behavioral data can be incredibly valuable. This is especially true for consumer-facing industries, such as retail, casual dining, or quick service restaurants, where nurturing meaningful relationships with customers and leveraging insights to encourage repeat behaviors are top priorities. The combination of weather and foot traffic data can elevate marketing efforts, as evidenced by AccuWeather's recent integration with Foursquare:
“Knowing an ice cream shop is around the corner when the afternoon is calling for record high temperatures is something we think our users will value, especially when they find themselves in unfamiliar surroundings while traveling for business or pleasure, for example," says Steve Smith, President of AccuWeather. “With Foursquare’s technology, advertisers can also connect with AccuWeather users when they’re around the corner from an ice cream shop on an unusually hot day, generating better business results through relevant messaging.”
Understanding how consumers are affected by different forms of weather enables data-driven location-based marketing in real-time, and that’s a win-win for marketers. Users of the popular AccuWeather weather app who voluntarily opt in to get local weather forecasts also have the advantage of maintaining control over when AccuWeather and its third-party partners may access their data.
“In today's landscape, marketers are increasingly responsible for revenue as well as branding. One of the fastest growing areas is location-based advertising, which can be used to help tie campaigns to real-world spend," explains Jeff Glueck, Foursquare's CEO.
Brands should take notice, marrying weather data with foot traffic insights to not only target specific audiences at the right place and time, but also to track the ROI of those campaigns in terms of incremental foot traffic.
Come Rain or Come Shine
In the end, restaurants should avoid making assumptions about how weather may affect foot traffic when there are accurate sources available that can provide real insights, such as weather-based analytics and Foursquare's proprietary foot traffic dataset. With this data, restaurants can better understand how both temperature and precipitation impact diners’ real-world movements—and ultimately, business outcomes.
Editor’s Note: Foursquare analyzes foot traffic patterns of millions of Americans that make up our always-on panel. All data is either anonymized, pseudonymized, or aggregated, and is normalized against U.S. Census data to remove age, gender and geographical bias. For this report, AccuWeather provided historical data for New York City, Atlanta, and Chicago 2018 including daily average temperatures and precipitation levels. Foursquare analyzed the impact of weather on foot traffic to different dining categories and restaurant chains, measuring the total volume of visits to determine whether there was a meaningful lift or decline based on the weather. For the purpose of this study, we defined warm days as days between 0.5 and one standard deviations above average summer temperatures, hot days as days anything more than above one standard deviation above average summer temperatures, and cool days are defined as days between 0.5 and one standard deviation below average summer temperatures.