2020 Restaurant Marketing Ideas and Trends

Marketing 12 minute read 06 April 2020

People often plan their lives around their next meal. And that’s cool - we’ve all done it. In fact, you’ve probably discussed what you’re going to eat next within the last couple of hours.

For restaurants, that means there’s an awful lot of hungry bellies and wandering eyes to target. The nation thinks about food a lot, therefore why not tap into that desire for ‘the next meal’ by ramping up your marketing efforts this year?

Some restaurant marketing stats to whet your appetite

Restaurant marketing statistics

According to Finances Online:

However, dig into the stats and you find even more interesting tidbits that reveal how significant the marketing opportunity is for eateries, no matter their size, location or take on dining.

For instance, it’s thought that fast food brands perform better on Instagram, and nearly 80% of millennials would rather spend money on an experience in a restaurant than buying something from a retail store.

The big restaurant marketing trends to look out for in 2020

2020 marketing trends

The most successful restaurant brands take advantage of the best marketing channels and strategies.

To do that, you need to be aware of the latest trends. So, we’ve saved you a heap of time by diving into the industry, digging deep and discovering what matters from a marketing perspective as a restaurateur.

Big-time focus on (quality) instagram posts

There’s no denying that as far as social media platforms go, Instagram is perfectly suited for the visual nature of the restaurant industry.

However, in order to make your restaurant shine on the Facebook-owned video and image sharing website, you need to get serious about quality.

Thankfully, modern smartphones have incredible cameras, but that’s not enough. Lighting the food you’re photographing is vitally important, as is the framing of the subject.

Spend some time researching food photography and practice as much as you can. The more beautiful your food looks on Instagram, the more likely it is to be shared far and wide.

Facebook Ads

Instagram might increasingly dominate your marketing output, but don’t forget about the power of Facebook Ads.

They still work. And no, they’re not a new trend, but the rate at which they’re being adopted by restaurateurs illustrates they’re increasingly relied on by brands big and small.

If you haven’t used them yet, you can finely pinpoint potential customers based on their location, age, interests and a whole host of other insightful demographics.

You don’t need to spend a fortune on it, either, and you can dip in and out as you need. This year, use their precise targeting options to find the perfect audience for whatever offer, new menu or event will suit them.

Experiences

Yes, you’ve heard this so much, but there’s a reason the word ‘experience’ is used so comprehensively in restaurant marketing these days.

Like so much in this industry, millennials are driving our dining habits. And, with 53% of them rating a new experience as an important feature when choosing where to eat, restaurants clearly need to focus on far more than the contents of their menu.

An experience can, literally, be anything you choose as a restaurateur. For instance, it might be a ‘speak easy’ style ‘knock to come in’ entry for the restaurant or something more elaborate in the way you seat people. Whatever it is, make it as unique as you can - and addictive.

Lunch specials

In 2017, it was revealed that 76% of Brits buy lunch every day. More importantly, that represented a 64% increase in the habit compared to 2016.

It was the start of a significantly important new trend, and has resulted in people continually eating out for lunch, be it for a quick bite from a pop-up food stall or something more elaborate while working from a restaurant table.

This has put a greater emphasis on the lunch special, and it’s a brilliant way to not just tempt people in during that time of the day but to also encourage long-term custom.

Lots of restaurants struggle to attract enough day time traffic, but if those figures revealed in 2017 continue to grow, lunchtime could be a boom time for your establishment.

With this in mind, now is the time to start putting together lunch specials that focus on low, fair pricing, decent choices (including allergens) and speedy service.

Loyalty cards

You’ve probably already got some form of loyalty card on your person (or nearby) right now. Whether it’s a coffee shop stamp collection or points card, it will have in some way increased the likelihood of you shopping with the brand in question.

Loyalty programs work for restaurants - big time. This is partly because the top 10% of your customers probably spend three times more than your average guests. But, it’s also because some marketing trends are as old as the hills - for good reason.

Loyalty cards have been a staple in restaurants and cafes for some time now, but this is the year when they’re likely to increase in number thanks to the ease with which they can be created and distributed either via old tried-and-tested methods or new digital forms.

Start by checking your POS system - it might include a loyalty module that you can start making use of today.

Recommended reading: Do coupon codes work? 10 statistics to consider for your business

Recommended reading: The Psychology of Loyalty Programs and Why They Work

The most important food marketing trends to look out for in 2020

food marketing trends 2020

Regular marketing strategies for restaurants are obviously important, but what about the fuel of your business - the food?

Here are the top five most important food marketing trends to keep an eye on this year.

  1. Food SEO. Google is smart; it understands how to look at your website from a diner’s perspective, and that means it’ll pay particular attention to mentions of food. This is why you need to make sure images are original and alt-tagged, but also ensure your menu is present on the site (not just in image form) and full of keywords.
  2. Geo-targeting. Sometimes, people are hungry, and they want to satisfy that feeling, fast. This illustrates the importance of local SEO - particularly when it comes to food. We recommend reading this article as a starting point.
  3. Social proof. Is your food really as good as you say it is? Why should people believe you? Social proof refers to your customers proactively posting images and social mentions of your brand that will in turn influence others. The good news? You just need to create great menus and food to tempt them into doing so.
  4. A focus on healthy bites... There’s no escaping the clamour for healthy eats these days, which is why a lot of the food marketing you do this year should be focused on highlighting how you’re catering for the health-conscious.
  5. ...and don't forget allergens. The presence of gluten-free menu options is one example of allergens being taken far more seriously by all types of restaurant - and for good reason. Are you catering adequately for those with intolerances?

Cafe owner? Read this: 10 Trending Cafe Marketing Tips for 2020

Wrapping up

The best news about the marketing trends we’ve outlined above is that they’re accessible for pretty much any restaurant business, no matter the budget available, the type of audience or the level of in-house marketing skill.

Whenever you experience some downtime or realise you haven’t updated your marketing plan in a while, make sure you check back on this post, as we’ll be updating it regularly with the latest restaurant marketing advice.

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