Impulsive Buying in the F&B Industry: A new opportunity for restaurants?

by | Jul 6, 2023

Have you ever had the sudden desire to purchase something without planning to do so? This is a behaviour that many consumers are familiar with. While this nature of impulse purchasing is not a new behaviour among consumers, in the recent years, impulse buying rose in popularity.

Notably, the pandemic and the economic crisis that followed catalysed the sudden rise of impulse purchasing behaviour in the food and beverage sector. In the regions with more severe outbreaks, fears of shortages and price increases triggered large-scale impulse buying, disrupting livelihood patterns and market behaviours. The revenge buying post-lockdown also contributed to the rise of this behaviour.

So, what really is impulse buying? It refers to the sudden and immediate purchase of a product without any pre-shopping intention. Impulsive purchases occur after shoppers experience an urge to buy and is often spontaneous without any hesitation.

Similar to other purchasing behaviours, impulse buying has certain psychological workings behind it. It is almost a power of temptation, the feeling of wanting to do something and the instant satisfaction of owning it.

The following will have a clear breakdown on how impulse buying works.

The Psychology of Impulse Buying

What Makes Us Buy On-the-moment?

Source: Gitnux

Two-thirds of grocery shoppers have some level of unplanned behaviour.

Source: Food Dive

Top Reasons Why We Impulse Buy

Capitalising on impulse purchase behaviour

Businesses in the F&B sector can employ the following strategies to leverage this buying behaviour to their advantage.

Attractive menu design:

Restaurant menus need a design that makes the items look visually appealing and tantalising. Appetising pictures of the food and drinks and descriptive language that evokes emotions can make customers more likely to purchase impulsively.

Limited-time offers:

Creating a sense of urgency has been a tried and tested marketing trick. Offering limited-time deals or specials can evoke a sense of urgency, encouraging customers to purchase impulsively. For instance, restaurants can incentivise customers to try it out by providing a special discount on a dish or a menu combo for a limited time.


Free sampling is a great way to give a taste of what a restaurant has to offer. Providing customers with samples of dishes allow them to test a sample of a product and create an urge to purchase the full dish.

Product positioning:

The right positioning of items always has a way of attracting the customers’ attention. For instance, supermarkets use this strategy to place certain products at the customer’s eye level for immediate attention-catch. F&B outlets can leverage the same strategy by displaying selected food items in places more likely to result in impulse purchases in prominent locations, such as on eye-level sign boards, at the entrance, checkout, or high-traffic areas of the restaurant, to increase visibility and encourage impulse purchases.


Encouraging customers to upgrade or add additional items to their orders can lead to impulse purchases. For example, when a customer places a coffee order, the cafe can offer a discount on a complementary piece of cake. Consequently this encourages the customer to add that to their order.

Social media advertising:

Restaurants can leverage social media platforms to advertise exclusive deals or limited time offers to their followers, creating a sense of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and encourage customers to make impulse purchases.

Using technology to encourage impulse purchases

Like many avenues in the hospitality industry, F&B marketing efforts have reaped the benefits of the industry’s technology adoption. Here are some ways restaurants can use digital technology to reinforce their marketing efforts and encourage impulse purchases.

1. Mobile ordering

In the age of mobile devices, optimising restaurant services for mobile platforms has benefits beyond imagination. Mobile ordering apps can provide customers with an easy and convenient way to order food and make impulse purchases.

Restaurants can also send push notifications to customers with special deals or promotions or send personalised menu offers based on their past transactions to encourage them to an immediate purchase.

2. Digital menu boards

Digital menu boards can be used to display high-quality images and videos of menu items and is a great tool to be used with product positioning strategy. Instead of using actual products, restaurants can use digital boards that are at eye level with the customer to get their immediate attention as they walk towards the order counter.

Additionally, interactive menu boards can invite more customer interaction and purchases. These can also be updated in real-time to feature limited time offers or specials, which can further influence purchasing decisions.

3. Self-service kiosks

Self-service kiosks can provide customers with a fast and efficient way to order food and make impulse purchases. They can also be programmed to suggest additional items based on the customer’s order history or preferences.

Customers think and act differently when purchasing from kiosks, reveals a past study on the first introduction of self-service kiosks at McDonald’s in 2004. Around 20% of the customers who initially did not include a drink in their order purchased a drink by the end of the checkout process, and the average check size increased by 30%.

4. Tabletop tablets

Tabletop tablets can be used either as alternatives for digital menu boards or together with them. These can be used to display menu items and provide customers with a visual representation of the dishes, suggest additional items, or upsell customers on their orders.

The use of appealing visuals of food and beverages is a sure way to speak to the emotions and the psyche of customers and entice them to make a purchase they did not plan initially.

5. Immersive dining

Augmented reality and virtual reality in restaurants can give guests a new kind of dining experience and entice them to spend more at a restaurant.

The introduction of such technologies in restaurants can influence the purchase behaviour of customers by showing them realistic views of what they can experience at the restaurant. This includes giving them more information about;

  • The serving size of a dish
  • Nutritional value
  • Ingredients used
  • Allergies and more

Impulse purchases: It’s all about tapping into the emotions

The more guests enjoy their experience in a restaurant, the more inclined they will be to purchase impulsively. At the end of the day, it is all about understanding what your target audience wants and how they want it. By understanding their preferences and behaviour, F&B outlets can leverage the right tools to reach out to consumer emotions at the right time.

Embracing the potential of impulsive ordering is not only a new avenue for increased sales but also a means to forge lasting connections and establish their position as leaders in the industry.

Manoj K Mohanty | IDS NEXT


Manoj K Mohanty

Senior Vice President - Sales, South Asia & South East Asia

He brings extensive industry experience and a track record of success in selling technology and services to global clients across hospitality markets. He has proven to be essential and crucial Sales personnel who is primary involved and contributing to acquiring new clients in South Asia and South East Asian regions.