Top 10 Restaurant Marketing Trends for 2017

Top 10 Restaurant Marketing Trends for 2017

It seems like every time you turn around, there’s a new restaurant popping up; a kitschy place all your friends are talking about before it even opens. With competition showing no signs of slowing, the Restaurant Marketing Labs team has compiled a list of the Top 10 Restaurant Marketing Trends for 2017. These tips will help you compete with the most buzz-worthy of hotspots, and have first-time customers coming back again and again.


Deliver Convenience


Perhaps it’s the new Amazon lifestyle of wanting everything in an instant at our doorstep, but indeed delivery has driven consumer desires this year more than ever. Restaurant-Hospitality reports with the increased popularity of apps, such as UberEats, GrubHub and Amazon Prime, restaurants which did not previously offer delivery are now able to create a new revenue stream on the customers who opt to eat at home.


TechCrunch reports, “Online food delivery services continue to rapidly expand; more and more previously undeliverable restaurants are now becoming easily accessible for delivery. What all this means is that the $126 billion piece of the pie that was historically the domain of pizza (delivery) is now quickly becoming up for grabs.”


Be Social



We would be remiss to ignore the digital elephant in the room, or better yet, at your fingertips. As with most industries, social media still reigns as a top marketing strategy.  In 2016, the average person spent nearly two hours per day on social media, according to MediaKix.  We can only imagine this number has gone up this year with the additional features of Facebook Live and Instagram Stories.


Sprout Social reports, “With more than 200 million posts (hash) tagged #food and 23 million with #drinks, food and beverage photos are easily some of the most popular types of content on Instagram. It’s very likely that your customers are posting with or without your interaction. When 88 percent of people are influenced by reviews and online comments, having an intentional digital strategy is important to your restaurant or bar.”


Having a social media presence, even without ad buys, is one of the cheapest marketing strategies you can implement for your restaurant. Having photos of your restaurant, the dishes, and even cocktails, will draw customers in visually—it’s basically eye-candy promoting the best-of-the-best of what your restaurant offers.


What’s more, having a social media presence will allow your customers to take photos in your restaurant and share them on their own social media platforms exposing your restaurant to their audience; thus, expanding your social reach.


Pay to Play



This may shock you, (and maybe even disappoint you), but Marketing 4 Restaurants notes “more and more average restaurants that are out-marketing the better restaurants, are getting all of the customers and making the profit.” This goes to show how important marketing efforts are in engaging your customers, as this research shows, even moderately decent restaurants are “winning” for the pure fact that their marketing heavily.



“The trend towards restaurants experimenting—not only with Facebook and Instagram—but experimenting with their menus in order to create great Social Media campaigns—will continue. Less than 8 percent of small restaurants are posting every week to Facebook themselves and only 2 percent are running Facebook ads.  We see this as being one of the biggest trends that will occur in 2017 as more restaurants discover the significant increase they can get in Revenue from running simple Facebook ads.” —


It’s important to be where your customers are—online. The more you stay in front of your customer, digitally, the better chances you may have of these prospects seeking you out for their next meal. Purchasing ads on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter can help you target new customers. You don’t have to be a digital marketing expert to create these ads, either. Each platform will walk you through ad buys from your business account—giving you control over your spend and the flexibility to adjust your ad buys as needed, as well as target by locale.


It is important to keep in mind your ROI for your paid efforts. Hootsuite reports, “In terms of ROI, more than 95 percent of social media managers say Facebook offers the best return, followed by Twitter and Instagram.”


Don’t underestimate the power of search engine marketing as well. “Search engine advertisements on sites like Google and Bing dethroned direct mail advertisement to become the fourth most popular choice of restaurant advertising,” Toast reports.


Get Experiential



Millennials and Gen-Z’ers are all about “the experience” and the ability to digitally document everything going on in their lives, so it’s no surprise more and more restaurants are turning to storytelling as an effective marketing strategy. This can be achieved by adding a blog to your website that’s updated weekly with rich content unique to your business.


Content Writers advises restaurant owners and managers the following tip: “The key to encouraging loyalty and building a customer base that includes repeat visitors, is content that presents an appealing narrative. The story could revolve around the resident chef, the atmosphere and ambiance, and, yes, even the cuisine.”


Targeting a niche in such a saturated market will help pique the interest of others who want to be part of your story—and they’ll want to share that story with others.


Fast-Casual Is Growing


A growing sector of the food industry lies within the “fast-casual” category. NPD reports show that in the restaurant industry, fast-casual is still faring better than the competition.


“Limited-service chains show an estimated 1 percent rate of growth in overall traffic. That’s slightly better than the flat growth for that total business sector in 2016, and far better than the anticipated loss of 2 percent of business for full-service restaurants in 2017,” reports Fast Casual in its State of the Industry report.


In order to stay competitive, restaurant owners need to differentiate themselves.  Whether it’s a signature dish, cocktail, or diet-specific menu, they’ll need to stand out from the competition any way they can.


Make It Memorable



Having a locally-focused, community presence and staying active within that community is another excellent way to engage new and future customers. “Organize events as often as possible, with a variety of distinctive themes and food served therein,” Robert Ancill of Medium writes in a recent post. “It creates a remarkable and out-of-this-world ambiance to delight your customers exceptionally well and this way, you embolden them to visit your restaurant time and again.”


Additionally, using your space as a venue for locals to hold events will draw in more potential customers. With great service and a desirable environment, customers will remember the experience they had during the event held at your venue. This will help distinguish your business and keep you top of mind to your customer base.


Socially Conscious Consumers



Restaurant marketing isn’t limited to traditional strategies. Ultimately, the food itself is also driving customers through your doors—and with customers becoming more and more conscious of where their food is coming from, being socially conscious or politically correct as AdWeek reports, is increasingly more important these days.


Let your patrons know if you source your ingredients locally, even becoming more granular by showcasing the farms nearby on your menu where the food was grown. AdWeek continues,“Consumers are demanding more morally conscious, real food—and brand packaging and advertising (markets) are increasingly taking note.”


When customers feel like they’re contributing to the greater good—they feel good—and they’ll want to continue feel-good behavior. It’s a self-fulfilling cycle: do good, feel good, repeat.


Double-Dipping Destinations


Have you noticed that some of your favorite retailers are also now the hosts of your favorite food or beverage spots? “Starbucks tucked into Target stores have started selling beer and wine, and retailers like Urban Outfitters and Club Monaco are mixing food and fashion to lure consumers into their ‘lifestyle destinations,’” AdWeek reports. “One of the most recent openings: Urban’s Space 24 Twenty in Austin with Symon’s Burger Joint and Pizzeria Vetri. Still going strong: Hall’s Israeli barbeque restaurant Esh, formerly The Gorbals, in Urban’s Brooklyn location, which sports a busy rooftop bar.”


As with experiential restaurant trends, people are going out of their way to visit such concepts. Giving customers an additional reason to come visit you (such as shopping!) will keep them in your restaurant longer, and ultimately, spend more money while they’re there. Win:Win.


Cut the Cookie-Cutter


While it’s easy to mass-replicate your chain restaurant, customers are looking for a unique look-and-feel to their dining experiences; something that connects them with their neighborhood’s ethos.


From the restaurant aesthetic, to the menu,  Forbes advises, “expect continued growth of regional chains coupled with localization efforts from national chains.”


Go Green



In the same vein of conscious-consuming, restaurants are going green in more ways than one. Eater describes an Indianapolis restaurant which has rows of hydroponic lettuces and herbs that it incorporates into its dishes—and they make certain their patrons know this garden is grown on-site. Additionally, having greenery inside the restaurant ads a fresh, clean ambiance with other added benefits.


Eater goes on to explain, “The effect is beautiful—the plants naturally absorb sound, and the calming visual winningly counterbalances the hard industrial slant that has defined so many dining rooms over the last decade.”


The homegrown, organic trend isn’t going anywhere any time soon, so why not start your own herb garden? There are few things more appealing to customer than showcasing a locally-grown green space inside of your restaurant for all to see and admire. As the country as a whole becomes more and more health conscious, your patrons will be drawn to restaurants that are socially and environmentally aware.

Let’s Talk Restaurant Marketing…

Interested in learning more about current restaurant marketing trends? Our team here at Restaurant Marketing Labs has more than 30 years of experience in transforming restaurants from inside to digital to site redesign. We know what your prospects are looking for and we craft experiences to bring them to your door. Visit us at and fill out this form here and let us know how we can help!

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