Get Excited! Restaurant Industry Trends You Need to Know

 Photo: Edward Franklin | Eugene, Oregon

Photo: Edward Franklin | Eugene, Oregon

While the restaurant industry has undoubtedly seen its downturns, things are looking up for owners in the latter half of 2017, as consumers—for the first time in decades—are spending more on eating out than on groceries and eating at home. It looks like the downturn of retail is also having a positive impact on restaurants as well, as Americans' spending dollars are shifting. While we can attribute many of these upturns in the industry to the advancements in food service technology, we wanted to explore further how restaurant owners can take advantage of this surge in spending.

There is a palpable excitement in the restaurant industry these days. We cannot predict every upturn or downturn in the market, we do have some promising news to share.

Restaurant Trends You Need to Know

1. Americans are spending more on dining out than groceries. 

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As this chart shows, Americans are now spending more of their food dollars on eating out than at grocery stores and eating at home. For decades, this has been the reverse, so we had to ask, why the sudden change in our spending? It appears that these metrics have been changing for some time, starting in the 1970s when more women were leaving their domestic roles for work outside of the home:

Americans have been consuming a larger and larger amount of their food away from home. It’s a well-established pattern stretching back to the 1970s that reflects the surge of female participation in the labor force outside domestic labor. (Source: No One Cooks Anymore, Quartz.)

While this may not be a huge surprise, 2016 is the first time that we have officially spent more on eating out. While we would love to attribute this surge in spending solely on exciting food trends and restaurant experiences that are taking Americans by storm, these are not the only precursors to this trend. It appears that the rising prices of groceries have more to do with why Americans are spending less on food at home than restaurants suddenly doing something to attract larger revenue streams:

Part of this reflects stagnant prices of groceries over the last year or so, with US grocery stores—Walmart is the biggest—competing with the rock bottom pricing of dollar stores. For example, over the last year, dairy and meat prices have dropped sharply. (Source: No One Cooks Anymore, Quartz.)

It also appears that this trend of us choosing restaurants over our home fare isn’t changing anytime soon. The good news for restaurant owners: this is the new normal.

The amount we spend on food outside the home has risen from about 26% in 1970 to 43% in 2012, and there's no indication this "new normal" will reverse anytime soon. (Source: Martha C. White, Time.com)

 Photo: Kevin Curtis

Photo: Kevin Curtis

How can we take advantage of this shift in the behavior of our consumers? Consumers are leaving the house more to eat, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll find us. Today’s consumers are more adventurous in their food choices, are looking for more convenient ways to eat out, as well as spending more money on nights out with friends. If we want to attract consumers to our establishments, we have to offer great food paired with great experiences.

2. We are spending less at the malls and more on meals out with friends.

Today’s consumers’ tastes are changing. It’s not just about buying stuff at the mall—“American’s are shifting their spending from materialism to meals out with friends.” It appears that we are now valuing experience over materialism and that is an exciting turn for bars and restaurants. We now spend more on travel and experiences than we have in the past few decades. Americans are choosing satisfying memories they can savor and share with friends on Instagram, over retail purchases. Smart restaurants are taking advantage of these changes with memorable food, events, and décor. It's all about giving customers something to share online. 

3. Our tastes are growing more adventurous!

We are a society becoming obsessed with new food trends. Not only is Instagram full of the most beautiful plates full of food, but it is also a place to explore our latest food finds—from the best Pad Thai to bone broth, to smoked chorizo breakfast wraps—we are demanding more choices than ever before. Great chefs and restaurant owners are pushing themselves to give us food experiences, not just serve us great tasting food. That’s why we love the story of Eggslut, whose approach on breakfast sandwiches has connected with Americans.

“In general, I think we’re eating better than in any time in dining history. We’re eating more adventurously.” Anthony Bourdain.

 Photo: eggslut.com

Photo: eggslut.com

The Story of Eggslut: Why Consumers Are Flocking for Breakfast Again

What began as the dream of founder and chef, Alvin Cailan has become a multi-city experience that has customers lining up around the block to taste the creamy, silky, egg creations. This is their story from the Eggslut website:

Eggslut is a chef driven, gourmet food concept founded in 2011. It's inspired by a true love for eggs. The menu is a balance of comfort and innovation, celebrating food that appeals to both novice and extreme foodie through classic comfort fare with a twist, all-encompassing our key ingredient, eggs. Our goal is to share our food with everyone. No longer just a breakfast staple, we make eggs appetizing all day, every day.

With several successful locations, chef Cailan seems to be doing many things right. With a signature dish and the perfect scrambled eggs, attention to quality ingredients, and a fun brand, there are many components of the Eggslut success story that we can admire. While the food is above reproach, we couldn’t help but wonder if there is more to this story than just a passion for the humble egg. We think there so. Eggslut proves that it is the sum of the experiences that get people flocking to your restaurant, not just one signature dish.

What Makes a Successful Restaurant Today?

What makes a successful restaurant in today's fanatical, Instagram-it-for-all-to-admire, passionate food fans environment? That's for you to figure out! With Americans spending more money on eating out, and our increasing desire for the novel or adventurous, restauranteurs have unlimited opportunities ahead if they continue to push their ideas into 2017 and beyond.

If you want to get in on the $799 billion in restaurant sales in 2017, here are a few things you need to start doing today:

Dial in and connect with your audience

Find your tribe, your cohorts, understand their needs, wants, desires, and values. For example, if you have a vegan restaurant, find some animal welfare charities to connect and help. Share your latest specials, and don't forget to use the #nomeat #vegan hashtags on Instagram and Twitter. Share the secret to your ‘cheese' sauce on your blog. It's all about connecting with your specific audience and giving them the food experiences they can’t find anywhere else.

Cater to a younger demographic

Millennials spend a lot of money on eating out, more than their previous generations: 

Millennials spend 44 percent of their food dollars – or $2,921 annually – on eating out, according to the Food Institute's analysis of the United States Department of Agriculture’s food expenditure data from 2014. That represents a 10.7 percent increase from prior data points in 2010. (Source: Forbes.com)

It doesn't look like the millennial spending power is going anywhere, so for 2017 and beyond, it's still about catering to this younger demographic. Why? Thanks to technology and food service apps like GrubHub, Uber Eats, and Seamless, it's never been easier to order food and pay for it with just a couple of clicks. Taking advantage of these new market opportunities might be the difference between giving these millennials what they want, or missing out altogether on this segment of the market.

Take advantage of technology

We've discussed this before, but we will continue to tell owners that if they haven't embraced technology for their businesses, they will be missing out on a large segment of their audience. It is imperative to track your customers coming into your restaurant through wi-fi and email as well as have an online presence that accurately showcases your unique service offerings. If you are online but aren't seeing the surge in traffic that you'd hoped for, give us a call. We can drastically improve your online presence helping you to connect to your core audience.

 Photo: Taylor Davidson

Photo: Taylor Davidson

Looking Ahead at Trends

While we cannot predict all the restaurant industry trends that we’ll see in 2018, we do know that there will be some ongoing trends that will continue, at least according to The National Restaurant Industry Outlook Report, 2017 from restaurant.org:

1. Food and menu trends lean towards concepts – again, we say think about those Instagram-worthy experiences you are offering consumers.

2. New technologies are changing the table service segments of the market. Our advice: Be flexible and embrace new ways to get your food out to consumers. If you are hesitant or don't know what technologies could help propel your business, that's okay. We can help you improve your digital presence and get more traffic in your direction.

3. You MUST embrace social media marketing, online marketing if you want to reach consumers.

These are just three of the upcoming trends you need to think of. If you need help embracing technology, getting online, and reaching out to your core audience—we can help. Schedule a free strategy session call with us today: https://calendly.com/aspirerm/ss

7 Great Ways to Use Instagram for Your Restaurant

Instagram for Restaurants

1) Invite relevant food bloggers to come in and Instagram your restaurant in exchange for a free entrée. People significantly underestimate this kind of exposure because fans will often go wherever the blogger tells them to go. Numbers aren't everything but we recommend looking for foodie bloggers that have in between 5-50k+ followers and at least 500 likes and at least 20 comments per photo. If they're in this range, it generally means people engage with them well and they have a dedicated following.

2) Search your location and engage (like and comment) on other people's photos in your area. Search your competitors and engage with who is following them. This can be quite time-consuming but rewarding if you want to grow your page and once you see more customers start to come in.

3) Giveaways! One of our clients gives away a $100 gift card every month and we ask people to “like” and share the photo and tag their friends for a chance to win—and each tag is considered an entry. We get hundreds of comments and tags and a lot of exposure as well as people who started following the page to keep up. You don't have to do this every month but once in a while will do you some good. If you want to build your email list, ask people to add in their email for a chance to win. If you promote the post, you can now geo-locate on IG so that will help new people see the giveaway who don’t already like your page. This is a lot more powerful on FB but works well on IG.

(FYI: This list is taken from our "Tip Of The Week" section in our newsletter—sign up to get more of these sent to your inbox twice a month: http://bit.ly/AspireEmailList :)

4) Tell stories about your staff, restaurant, decor, neighborhood etc. Don’t just post photos of the dishes. People are emotional and connect well with a story. How was the dish made? What was the inspiration being a certain piece of decor in the restaurant? Fun fact about the head chef? You get the idea... Also, IG rewards you by showing your photo to more people if someone spends a long time on your post, so do the occasional long caption when you feel inspired :) Also, ask questions so people can answer in the comments. What’s your favorite dish and why? When was the first time you dined with us? Can anyone take a guess as to what our new ice cream flavor is?

5) Obvious—but take good photos... Doesn't always have to be professional but use natural light or make sure the object you're photographing is very well-lit. Try and get some nice ambiance in the background to accompany the dish.

6) Leverage your customers' photos. Search your location check-ins and screenshot the photo and think of a relevant caption. You can give credit by doing something like “📸:: @sallylovesfood” and use 5-10 relevant hashtags related to the photo.

7) Dedicate a restaurant hashtag and use it for all your photos. Your customers will start using it as well and you can search to see what people are posting.

To learn more about how Instagram and Facebook can help your restaurant bring in 10-30%+ more customers within 90 days (or if you need an expert to do these 7 things for you), schedule a FREE strategy call with us here: calendly.com/aspirerm/ss

Is the Future of LA’s Restaurant Scene Growing Brighter?

Downtown LA Restaurant Scene

by Chad Eschman

Ann Kwon is no stranger to LA’s restaurant scene. She’s lived in Los Angeles all of her life, watching the neighborhoods shift and grow. For the past several years she’s managed Biergarten, the acclaimed Koreatown gastropub known for its craft beer, fusion pub food, and warm atmosphere—a concept that couldn’t be more LA.

She told me how her brother came up with the idea when he was in Germany. “He loved the beers,” she said, “but he also really liked the whole beer garden scene—like the communal seating, where you just sit and socialize with people.” So they brought that idea to Los Angeles, and earlier this year they celebrated the seven-year anniversary of their relaxed craft beer pub.

It’s this laid-back and dressed-down vibe that consistently permeates LA’s dining rooms. There’s a focus on straightforward dishes that highlight the golden state’s fresh ingredients and their distinct flavors. Some say that the city is in its heyday, while others insist that the best is yet to come. There’s one thing that everyone seems to agree on, though: Los Angeles keeps it simple.

 Kalbi Tacos from Biergarten

Kalbi Tacos from Biergarten

According to Joel Stein at Los Angeles Magazine, that simplicity sometimes swings a little too far. “For a city that closes at 10 p.m.,” he says, “we eat as if we have a permanent hangover.” This is probably why, he admits, we boast great burgers, quality Asian food, and reliable breakfast joints. This is also, however, why there’s so much room to grow.

It’s no secret that LA is a city of reinventing oneself. Yes, the future of LA dining may be paved with basics like rock-solid ramen and no-nonsense tacos, but what comes next? How will the city’s culinary personality evolve? The key just might lie in a heavy arsenal of local ingredients, paired with a humming diversity of influences.

California is a powerhouse of produce, ranches, dairies, and coastal catches. The vast landscape and brimming oceanside are fueled with unending days of sunshine, giving the state a great advantage: a steady influx of high quality fodder for new dishes. SoCal chefs taste the difference, and they take full advantage of it.

 

“The produce is much better in LA,” claims Eddie Huang. He’s half of the brotherly duo that built up Baohaus in New York, and a few years back he set up the west coast edition in LA’s Chinatown. In an interview with LA Weekly, he went on to explain how it affects their cooking: “Even just making our chili oils and our hot sauces, they’re brighter and more vibrant than they are in New York.” This may be part of why menus here lean towards simplicity—the ingredients speak for themselves.

However, before you write off LA as the center of stripped-down standards, there’s more to consider. As the Washington Post put it, “Ask the pros what makes Los Angeles so delicious, and ‘diversity’ tops everyone’s list.” The wide range of cultures represented in LA kitchens has given birth to just as many mash-ups, from clam chowder fries to Armenian dumpling nachos.

It’s part of what makes places like Biergarten unique. Their menu is laden with crossover dishes like German fried rice and kimchi pancakes. “We want to introduce people to new things,” Kwon explained. “The menus in LA keep changing, and there are trends, so we try to offer that here as well.” And while Biergarten’s influences may be largely German and Korean, they also have items like kalbi tacos on home-made tortillas. At the end of the day, said Kwon, one of the biggest influences on their menu “is just LA.”

Los Angeles is changing and growing, there’s no doubt. Downtown is multiplying. Silicon Beach is brimming with bright startups. And in terms of its restaurants, Ori Menashe of Bestia may have put it best: “Since there's a lot of focus on LA chefs right now, each one has to bring their game higher and higher.” It’s a challenge, but one that local restauranteurs are embracing to move steadily in one direction: up. The greatest challenge of all may be the one faced by city’s diners: deciding where to eat tonight.

 bao haus los angeles | Photo: @cookingwithcocktailrings / kylie mazon

bao haus los angeles | Photo: @cookingwithcocktailrings / kylie mazon

How A Restaurant Got 20x Its Average Sales in 2 Days

Let’s face it, what restaurant owner doesn’t dream of a packed house with lines out the door?

Well, it can happen with a little social media help…

 Global News / Via  globalnews.ca

Global News / Via globalnews.ca

Like many, John McMillan dreamed of having a restaurant. That dream came true when he opened Whitbie’s Fish and Chips. With everything in place, McMillan’s restaurant sparkled, ready for customers.

The days rolled by into months — into years — but barely anyone came.

It wasn’t until marketer Colin Ross discovered the restaurant, that McMillan’s business started to pick up — quickly.

After eating at Whitbie’s Fish and Chips, Ross couldn’t believe that this clean restaurant, serving fantastic fish and chips, by a “good-hearted, super awesome guy” was empty.

So, Ross took action. He created a sincere, heart-felt Facebook post that told McMillan’s story, also urging local people to share the post and to check out the fish and chips restaurant.

The results were staggering.

People started flocking to Whitbie’s Fish and Chips — one day, four hundred customers, the next, five hundred. The lines snaked around the restaurant and out the door on a regular basis. John ended up increasing his restaurant sales by 20x in only two days. All because of a Facebook post.

Why Social Media Works So Well for Restaurants (If Done Correctly)

In today’s digital world, social media is probably the easiest and best form of discovering a restaurant. Customers “found” Whitbie’s Fish and Chips through a simple Facebook post that took less than 15 minutes to set up using little to no money to promote it. People shared the post, engaged with it, and started flocking to the restaurant.

Consider this…

There are 1.86 billion monthly active users on Facebook

1.74 billion people access Facebook with their mobile device

That means targeting the right audience with a well-crafted Facebook post or ad can trigger a “Whitbie’s” response, as in, “This restaurant sounds great and it’s close by — let’s go!”

Here’s the exciting part…

Restaurants can create a social media marketing plan that precisely targets customers by interest(s), location, age, gender, income, and much more…

For example, the Ocho Mexican Grill in L.A. ran a Facebook ad campaignthat targeted local customers that fit their target audience demographic. Here’s how it went:

- The restaurant reached 21,233 people within a 3-mile radius
- They invested $2.01 per thousand impressions (CPM)
- Local customers each saw the ad a total of 2.35 times throughout the campaign

So, for the customers looking to have lunch close to work, Ocho Mexican Grill was on their mind and in the perfect location.

Not bad!

However, Geoffrey’s Malibu hired us to run a similar Facebook Ad campaign and the results were 3x more effective…

- The restaurant reached 60,152 people within a 25-mile radius
- They invested a maximum of $.01 per video view
- OpenTable reservations were integrated into the ad, resulting in 300+ reservations within the first 5 days through the ad alone

 A screenshot of the Facebook ad

A screenshot of the Facebook ad

We used our unique marketing and restaurant industry expertise to maximize every dollar spent and focus on real results: actually getting people into the restaurant. We also put together a content-focused marketing plan ahead of time to ensure our client was properly set up for success before putting out the ad.

Remember that using Facebook and Instagram to get “lines out the door” requires developing a strong social media strategy. Of course, there are also key social media “tricks” restaurants can implement in their strategies that put them ahead of the competition:

Customers Will Remember a Story

Every restaurant has a story to tell. For John McMillan, it was about leaving Scotland and sharing his treasured cuisine with his new community.

Customers want to hear these stories. They’ll love how a restaurant creates dishes, say, from their rooftop garden. And they’ll remember how a local brewery partnered with a restaurant to develop an exclusive brew.

The storytelling opportunities are endless. And they’re a powerful tool for connecting with customers — before they ever get to the restaurant and long after they leave.

Think about it:

Eating is a sensory experience. And, as they say, customers “eat with their eyes” first. So, it’s important to ignite that visual sense. And what better way to do that than with powerful images and video content?

Great Photos Create Desire

  A few photos we shot for Geoffrey’s Malibu.

A few photos we shot for Geoffrey’s Malibu.

Customers want to see what restaurants make. And they love quality food images.

So, when a restaurant presents images of its artfully plated food to customers on Facebook and Instagram, they’re inspiring people, bringing them up close to the food, and to the table.

Professional Video Feeds Curiosity

People are naturally curious — which is why customers love to get a glimpse “behind the scenes.” And if the head chef and/or owner of the restaurant is showing them around — even better.

Video content creates real-time interest. That might include a video of the chef preparing a new dish on the menu. Or maybe a short how-to video for making a popular drink from the bar. And, of course, a video tour of the restaurant — with the head chef — would certainly be a big win!

The thing is, if a customer can see the restaurant in action, they feel part of the food experience — before they even walk in the door.

Bringing Everything Together

With the right approach, social media marketing offers restaurants the opportunity to get more foot traffic, create customer loyalty and, of course, increase revenue.

And when that strategy includes powerful, visual content, customers respond with their feet.

Product (food/service/ambiance) + content (story) + visuals (photo/video) + distribution (social media/advertising) all need to work together holistically in order to trigger an action that will turn a potential customer into a loyal customer.

The end result?

Restaurant owners enjoy a packed restaurant with happy customers and lines out the door — every night.

That’s the magic formula that helped John skyrocket his restaurant and the magic formula that many successful world-class restaurants use in their marketing every single day.

So if you’re a restaurant owner or manager looking to drastically increase your restaurant’s sales in a short period of time, schedule a free call with us today and we’ll audit your restaurant’s marketing efforts and give you free advice to help take your business to the next level. Our goal is to at least double or even triple our client’s foot traffic within the next five to six months of working with us.

You can also learn more about us by visiting our website.