Article originally posted on Restaurant Finance Monitor on February 20, 2017 by Nicholas Upton

How much would turning an infrequent customer into a regular affect the bottom line? According to an NPD report, it’s a $1.1 billion opportunity for the restaurant industry.

The market research group said heavy users are cutting back on dining out. Light users could bridge that gap.

“When you’re in a market that’s not growing, and you’ve got heavy users that account for 26% of your buyers and 60% of your volume who have cut back—how likely are you to get more business form them?” pondered Bonnie Riggs, restaurant industry analyst at NPD and author of the report. “Especially when they’re saying that going out to restaurants has gotten too expensive.”

She said heavy users pushed the current downturn further. Respondents to a survey that made up part of the report blamed high prices and low at-home food costs.

“Heavy users cut back the most, it was a two-point swing, which is significant when you consider how big that group is and how much volume they account for,” said Riggs.

And it might be easier to get another visit out of light restaurant users, but loyalty programs, rewards and marketing dollars pour toward heavy users.

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