by Deanna Ting | May 21, 2014
If there’s a particular type of gift card that possesses nearly universal appeal, dining gift cards certainly fit the bill. That broad appeal, and unique experience factor is driving the demand for these types of gift cards in the incentive space says Jim Atten, general sales manager for Lisle, IL-based RPG Gift Cards/Royal Performance Group Card Solutions. “We’ve definitely seen higher demand for dining and entertainment gift cards,” he says. “In fact, our demand has grown for the quick service restaurant and causal dining category anywhere from 15 to 20 percent.”

Ben Kaplan, president and CEO of Portland, ME-based CashStar agrees. “As the economy continues to improve, those dining and entertainment gift cards remain a solid value. People haven’t cut back on going out and dining; it’s valued as special, as opposed to just a product that you are getting or could buy at a different type of retailer,” he says. “Dining remains a very important vertical segment for us: one where we’ve had a lot of growth in adding more retailers and seeing incredible uptick with our incentive and distribution partners.” 

Kaplan adds, “What you’re creating with a dining gift card is a rewarding or personal experience. I think that as you look back over the economic challenges that the country has faced over that last four or five years, that type of experience and reward becomes a bit more special and personal.”

Digital Begins to Make a Dent
CashStar’s Kaplan, whose company specializes in digital gifting platforms, says that digital dining gift cards are also starting to catch on. “The increased usage of smartphones and apps like the Starbucks app, for instance, really allow for easy redemption and usage and a great customer experience.”

Eating Well, and on a Budget
RPG’s Atten sees that, in many incentive programs, there has been a large demand for low-denomination gift cards for restaurants that specialize in casual, family-friendly dining. “Quick-service restaurants and inexpensive casual family dining brands fit right in there,” he says. “Even a $5 Subway or Taco Bell card is exatcly what many of our clients’ incentive programs are looking for in order to incentivize people. Some are giving a $15 to $20 Pizza Hut card simply for a survey response; it’s a meal for one or two people.”

Atten also sees more of a gift card focus on healthier eating options such as Subway. “This is an especially great fit for many wellness programs that we’re seeing,” he says.