Is your restaurant or beverage brand looking to set the table for a measurably successful year? Right this way, ma’am. After all, as the industry grapples with a world where food & bev meets tech, and tech meets your face, allow us to suggest some good old-fashioned marketing trends—just like your CMO mom used to make. Mmmm… now that’s some tasty ROI. 

Trend #1: Value is Valued

Okay, maybe not so much a “trend” as a “time-honored fact,” but price points and value will continue to be a top concern for restaurant-goers this year. With so many options per dining dollar, “only” providing delicious food simply isn’t enough anymore. Consider limited-time offers and special deals to keep bringing customers in and buying more “double-doubles”—see Tim’s rims. 

 

Trend #2: Easy Pay to Play

Fan favorite chains Shake Shack and Sweetgreen have transitioned to cashless utopia. Not only does this move make inventory easier, it removes change purse bottlenecks at busy registers. Of course, there is the other side of the (discontinued) coin: going cashless draws a line between the haves and have nots, and it banks on people always having a credit or debit card with them. So take your clientele into account before seguing to a swipes-only system.

And if going cashless isn’t “Black Mirror” enough for you, some chains are installing kiosks that allow customers to pay with their faces. This innovative (or creepy, depending on how you felt about 1984) method uses scanning tech to remember your every freckle, while storing previous orders for quicker service. (Just make sure your customer base isn’t disproportionately comprised of twins.)

Trend #3: Customers Gonna Customize

Customization used to be limited to: “Do you want fries with that?” But now we’re into the year of build-your-own pasta/nachos/flan/what-have-you. And with a continued emphasis on clean eating, customers on a health kick can pick and choose exactly what kind of greenery they want lodged in their teeth.

Even sit-down restaurants can get in on the action with side-bars that allow customers to create their own baked potato or cereal combination or fountain drink. You get the idea. This level of customization allows for new visitors, too, as picky friends who may have vetoed a restaurant in the past can happily construct a meal to their precise tastes.

Trend #4: Putting the “App” in “Appetizer”

Blame it on the lure of Netflix or point fingers at dining-out budgets, but half of all dinners purchased at restaurants are being consumed at home. Meaning a full 50% of your customers will only spend a few moments in your space—leaving you a small window to win them over. Counterintuitively, making it convenient for them to get in and out just may result in more “ins.” Having prepared foods readily accessible makes it easy for customers to grab-and-go, and they’ll keep you in mind for future visits.

Or offer digital ordering. It’s not a capability for everyone, but if you can, you should. And many restaurants already have, as digital ordering now accounts for 53% of all delivery orders. Adding your restaurant as an option on UberEats will also open your delectable offerings up to a whole new digital audience.

If you’re hesitant about translating your menu to binary code, there’s hope for you yet. You just have to combine memorable nights on the town with the ease of eating take-out in favorite recliners. Dot your menu with dine-in exclusives, and make sure they’re worth leaving the house for. Offer an experience, like trivia or live music. And make sure your service is top-notch, from a seamless reservation process to hiring only the warmest and most professional staff ready to serve hungry guests. 

 

Trend #5: Provide a Perfect Picture Menu

It’s like high school all over again: looks matter, and reputations are built on social media. One well-lit picture of your signature guac fountain or quirky tiled floor could mean an influx of hungry aesthetes. If you weren’t in a sugar-induced coma for those wild weeks last spring when Starbucks released their Unicorn Frappuccino, you’ll recall that every Instagram feed was inundated with that electric blue and neon pink drink. What wasn’t addressed in those captions? Any mention of taste. Maybe you can’t judge a book by its cover, but you can definitely sell coffee by its foam art.

Fact is, there’s potential for every menu item to be #trending, so if you pride yourself on khaki-colored stews, compensate with eye-catching interiors. Or give customers a show with a glass-walled kitchen. Anything that makes for a shareable photograph is good for business.

Photo by BurkleHagen 

Trend #6: Sustain Your Reputation

Finally, do your brand—and Mother Earth—a favor and focus on simple, locally sourced ingredients. Because customers in 2018, with all their conversations around “free-range” this and “grass-fed” that, care about where their food comes from. It also may save you time and money, as well as help build some brand personality. Don’t underestimate the power of some well-positioned “we use local ingredients” language.

So there you go: six tasteful restaurant and beverage trends. Any questions? Stop by our Bro Bistro anytime and order up more food for thought, or maybe just a “Browler” to get the creative juices flowing? Cheers, everybody!