Douglas C. Pizac
R. Woodland sips on his beer at a Chili's restaurant Feb. 15, 2009, in Midvale, Utah. A new survey says customer loyalty to chain restaurants like Applebee's and Chili's is based on the price and selection of alcohol they serve.
Forget about Bloomin' Onions or boneless wings, for many consumers, the choice of where to dine often comes down to a different factor: which restaurant has the best booze.
"Alcoholic beverages can be a key driver of traffic, differentiation, and loyalty," said David Decker, president of Consumer Edge Insight. According to the firm, two factors that keep customers coming back are "selection" and "pricing."
Consumer Edge Insight recently surveyed restaurant customers to find out which casual-dining spots generated the most loyalty with their alcoholic beverages.
Taking the top spot for "selection" was Buffalo Wild Wings, with 29 percent of those surveyed saying they were "most likely to visit it most often due to its good selection of alcoholic beverages."
(Read more:Beer with that burger: Smashburger does pairings)
Applebee's took the second spot, with 24 percent, and Outback Steakhouse and T.G.I. Friday's tied for third place with 22 percent each.
Prices also keep customers coming back to Buffalo Wild Wings.
When asked which casual-dining brand they were "most likely to visit most often due to its good prices of alcoholic beverages," Buffalo Wild Wings came out on top with 30 percent. Chili's was No. 2 at 23 percent, and Ruby Tuesday was third with 22 percent.
(Read more: Buffalo Wild Wings to launch its own craft beer)
Buffalo Wild Wings has always made alcohol a part of its experience, even making it part of its tagline: "Wings.Beer.Sports."
The chain is the No. 1 account for more than 50 different beer brands and recently launched Game Changer, a new beer in a partnership with Redhook Brewery. Priced between cheaper domestic lagers and pricier craft beers, Game Changer became the fourth-most-popular draft beer at company-owned locations within two weeks of its release.
"Among casual-dining restaurants, Buffalo Wild Wings is seeing the greatest positive effect in terms of building customer loyalty with its alcohol offerings," Decker said. "There are many steps other restaurants can take to improve their alcoholic beverage programs to increase traffic, sales and customer loyalty."
(Read more: The triumphant 30-year reign of the 'breastaurant' )
Among the restaurants with room for improvement was Hooters, which 46 percent of those surveyed cited as the place they would visit more often if the chain offered a better selection of alcoholic beverages.
Lone Star Steakhouse had the highest number of customers saying they would visit more often if the chain offered better prices on alcoholic beverages.
First published September 23 2013, 10:33 AM