Fair-weather foodies: exploring weather’s effect on dining with AccuWeather

Sterling Lanier Unsplash

Last year we announced an innovative partnership with AccuWeather, the most accurate source of weather forecasts and warnings in the world, in which it would be leveraging Pilgrim SDK to power hyper-local place recommendations in its branded app. Since then, our relationship has grown and evolved, particularly as AccuWeather has taken the opportunity to validate its understanding that weather impacts consumer behavior using our foot traffic insights offering: Analytics. Fueled by visitation data from the industry’s largest always-on panel, Analytics gives researchers and marketers unprecedented visibility into consumer behavior and competitive dynamics.

People often make assumptions about consumers’ dining habits when a winter storm or unexpected rainy day occurs, but our insights offering enabled AccuWeather to dive deeper into this relationship and share key findings with top dining brands.

Let’s take a deeper dive into how Foursquare combined weather data with real-world behavioral data, surfacing granular insights that provide a valuable resource for sales and marketing teams.

Addressing the Knowledge Gap

AccuWeather needed data on consumers’ actual, real-world behavior in order to quantify the true impact of weather on consumers’ dining habits. “Partnering with Foursquare enabled us to combine our own robust weather data with first party location data around restaurants to tell a compelling story to our clients about why weather matters, showing the role weather plays in consumers’ real world behaviors” notes Rosemary Radich, Director of Data Science at AccuWeather. “With location data, we were even able to quantify the effect of different weather conditions on foot traffic to specific restaurants, helping us build stronger relationships with strategic accounts.”

“With Foursquare’s unique data set, we’re much better equipped to communicate our value proposition in the market, building stronger relationships with dining brands and positioning ourselves as innovative leaders in the advertising space.” – AccuWeather

Consumers’ Dining Behavior Quantified

Location data corroborated a common assumption–that consumers go out to eat less when the weather is less than optimal–but more importantly, the data quantified the impact of weather on consumer behavior. Here’s a peek at the insights Foursquare uncovered for AccuWeather through this partnership.

Insight #1: Seasonality makes a meaningful difference
Visits to restaurants increase on unusually hot days in the winter and spring, and decrease on unusually cold days, perhaps reflecting consumers’ excitement for a break from the cold and readiness for winter to end. Conversely, restaurants see an uptick in visits on unusually cool summer days, and fewer visits on unusually hot summer days, as consumers may opt to stay home and cook instead of dining out. However, foot traffic data also reveals unanticipated trends, such as a lift in visits to barbecue joints on unusually hot days.

The impact of precipitation also varies by season. Consumers dine in most when there is heavy rain (more than 0.5 inches) in the winter, with restaurants’ foot traffic declining by up to 11 percent on average, followed by the summer, when heavy rains bring an average 10 percent drop. However, heavy rain in the fall interestingly only brought a 1 percent drop in visits to restaurants on average. The AccuWeather team was also pleased to see another relationship validated—namely, that there is a notable decline in visits to restaurants on days with heavy snow.

Insight #2: The amount of precipitation matters
Foursquare and AccuWeather data shows an average 7.4 percent decline in foot traffic on days with medium to heavy rain in 2018, versus a 1.6 percent average decline in foot traffic to restaurants in New York City, Chicago, and Atlanta on days with only light rain.

Research proves that consumers take a “rain check” when the forecast looks to be extra wet.

Insight #3: Certain types of cuisine are more heavily impacted than others
Casual dining restaurants are generally more affected by the weather than quick service restaurants. The combination of Foursquare’s robust location data with AccuWeather’s superior weather data also enables analysis by type of cuisine. The takeaway? Consumers may be less willing to go out for more indulgent items when the weather is unusually cold, rainy, hot, or otherwise unpleasant. Places consumers go to treat themselves, such as ice cream shops, bakeries, and comfort food spots, see some of the biggest declines on days with heavy rain, with decreases in patronage reaching almost 13 percent.

Interestingly, consumers do go out for soup even more on cold and rainy days. On days with light rain, ramen shops see a 14.7 percent uptick in foot traffic and noodle shops see a 4.9 percent lift in foot traffic over days without precipitation, when averaging across New York City, Chicago, and Atlanta. On unusually cold or cool days, ramen and noodle shops saw 9 to 12 percent lifts in foot traffic on average.

What This Means for Marketers

It’s clear that weather plays a large part in consumers’ dining preferences and habits. In fact, a brand’s failure to address and acknowledge weather’s impact and importance can result in decreased sales and missed outreach opportunities. Below are four recommendations on how brands should use this data to reach the right consumers, in the right place, at the right time, with the right message.

  • Segment Audiences: Identify consumers with different dining preferences based on their foot traffic patterns, visit frequency, and brand affinities.
  • Deliver Moment-Based Messaging: Optimize messaging and creative to align with the appropriate moment, based on where customers are and the weather conditions at that time.
  • Influence Buyer Behavior: Understand consumers based on the places they go and their path-to-purchase, intercepting their journeys with location- and weather-based targeting.
  • Boost and Measure Restaurant Visits: Monitor consumers’ real-world behavior around your restaurant locations, adapting your marketing strategies to drive business outcomes.

Layer your first party data on top of Foursquare’s location data to gain a deeper understanding of consumer behavior, fueling smarter business decisions. If you’d like to partner with us on custom insights and research, email hi@foursquare.com today or visit us at Foursquare Analytics.

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 weather expertise and historical weather data for New York City, Atlanta, and Chicago 2018, including daily average temperatures and precipitation amounts. 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.

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