Top 3 Trends Fast-Casual Restaurants Didn’t See Coming

By: Gina Lee De Freitas

Keeping up with rapidly changing trends is critical for fast-casual restaurants. Here are three trends that many eateries didn't see coming -- and a few more that are on the horizon for 2018. 

Technology today is on fast-moving wheels. Things are changing at a great pace and global interactivity on the internet is the main cause. The intermingling of cultures, the evolution of internet technology, the emergence of the IoT (Internet of things), etc. has brought unexpected changes to the fast-casual restaurant sector, too. Here are the three big trends that restaurants did not see coming.  

 Technology Becoming Omnipresent 

There isn't an aspect of restaurants, or the food industry on the whole, that has not been affected by evolving technology. Curbside pickup exploded in 2017 and so did the technology to manage it. Online ordering is now a norm and push notifications and promotions on smartphones have become an integral part of restaurant marketing. 

Mobile payments options have also picked up. Many restaurants have also moved to electronic and dynamic menus to avoid reprinting costs of paper menus. New employee scheduling and training software/applications are also available. These applications allow efficient management of workforce, facilitation with hiring, and ease of reporting.  

“Uberization” of Food Delivery 

In 2016, there was some chatter about third-party food delivery services, but no one knew the trend would become so strong in 2017. UberEats, Grubhub, DoorDash and Seamless are just some of the food delivery services promising that users will receive their foods hot and fresh through smartphone ordering and/or scheduling.  

The reason that these delivery applications are so attractive to today's consumers is that they have menus from lots of restaurants at their disposal. In addition, there are in-app offers and discounts available for users, too. While food delivery through third parties is still in its initial phases, the future is bright for these companies.

Personification on Social Media 

In the past two years, we’ve seen many restaurants develop a unique persona on social media to drum up awareness for their brand. Personifying the restaurant and interacting with social media users on a personal level has proven to be a successful marketing strategy for many restaurants. Sweetgreen is an excellent example of powerful social media presence—the restaurant's logo has small letters in it, so they always use small letters in their posts too.    

Pieology Pizzeria regularly uploads or shares photos of its users under a #MyPieology hashtag. Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop distributes coupons to its followers by running funny and easy-to-follow games – in one instance, they gave a coupon to the user with the most creative comment about a particular topic. It has now become necessary for restaurants to have a strong, interactive and personalized social media presence.  

These are three of the current major trends. Moving forward, there are others to watch out for: Vegetables becoming a key part of menus, gluten-free options becoming mainstream, drive-thru fast-casual restaurants (like some Paneras), and “value” meals (think a $5 menu). Keeping on or ahead of these trends in an ever-changing industry will help your fast-casual restaurant stay relevant and appealing to customers.  

About Butts in Seats!

When it comes to restaurant trends and marketing, IMM knows what they are talking about. Gina Lee De Freiitas, President of IMM, and Corien de Jong, SVP Executive Creative Director, have more than 25 years of experience in the vertical. So when they talk about the tools, tips and resources your restaurant needs to succeed, rest assured they’ve got it covered.

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