eateries to fast-casual operations. More restaurants also tout
locally sourced ingredients, and gourmet toppings have earned
a certain cachet among diners wanting something a little different, Wiener says. “Instead of sausage and pepperoni, it’s brussel sprouts, pancetta and sopressata. Again, people just know
more about what they’re eating now. They think of sopressata
as classy pepperoni when it shaves and puts on a nice suit.”
The Social Scene
The fundamentals of effective restaurant marketing haven’t
changed much over the years, but recent advances in mobile
technology have spawned various new tools that marketers
cannot afford to ignore. Most restaurants now have a website,
and online ordering has begun to enter the mainstream and
will continue to spread, thanks to integrated systems devel-
oped by leading POS companies. Social media has become
the 400-pound gorilla that restaurant marketers ignore at their
own peril. Complicating the situation is the proliferation of
so many social media outlets—too many for your average in-
dependent restaurateur to keep up with. As moms, dads and
even grandparents have commandeered Facebook, younger
consumers are slowly drifting away to Instagram, Snapchat
and Tumbler, to name a few options. But Facebook remains
a rock-solid stronghold for mainstream adult consumers and
a must-have marketing tool for pizzerias, notes Doug Brandt,
owner of Pie Hole Pizza Joint ( pieholepizzajoint.com), which
has two stores in Chicago.
“Pie Hole thrives off social media,” Brandt says. “Our market
falls right in line with people of any age who are also active on
social media. In a multi-unit environment, you should already
have a Facebook page for each location, plus one for the brand
overall. You also should be active on Twitter, and, by all means,
jump on Instagram!”
Meanwhile, more restaurateurs have added mobile apps to
their marketing arsenal. Pie Hole presently has an app for
Android smartphones, but Brandt’s goal is to develop one
that’s compatible with iPhones as well. He also wants to be
able to offer online ordering with his app. “I’m not sure that
every independent pizzeria needs an app,” he says. “However,
I would most definitely say that, if you appeal to a college,
urban or young ‘digerati’ market—or if you have three or more
locations—then, yes, jump on it right away. You might not get
a tremendous amount of use out of it right away, but having
one early will reap rewards down the pike.”
If you’d prefer not to bother with an app at this point, Brandt
says a mobile-friendly website—that is, a site that is customized
for tablets and smartphones—is the next best thing. “There
are plenty of websites out there that will automatically convert
your website into something suitable for a smartphone,” he
says. “These work to varying degrees of success, depending on
how complex your website is. Website developers are now mak-
ing smartphone-friendly sites right alongside the traditional
desktop versions. Soon, websites will be designed primarily for
portable devices and only secondarily for desktop monitors.”
In other words, customers may soon have as much control
over their Web browsing experience as they now enjoy over
their pizzeria dining experience. Although this will undoubt-
edly pose some short-term challenges to operators, it should
be a win-win in the long run. Customers will derive greater
satisfaction from their interactions with the restaurant, both
online and in-person, and operators will be able to count on
repeat business and a more contented clientele. After all, when
the customer truly comes first, the customer keeps coming
back for more.
Rick Hynum is PMQ’s editor-in-chief
F&B Trends for 2014
Food and restaurant consulting firm Baum + Whiteman
recently predicted some of the hottest food and beverage
trends for 2014, including:
1. Tasting-only menus. Tasting menus guarantee a specific average check along with precosted, highly controlled inventory.
2. Haute chicken. Upscale chicken restaurants are taking
flight around the United States.
3. Fishy fish. Americans are giving anchovies, sardines
and mackerel a second look.
4. Bubbling, fizzing beverages. Think craft sodas, teas,
vermouth, sour beer and pressed juices.
5. Creative spreads. When butter’s not enough and
EVOO’s old hat, some chefs are offering vanilla
tapenade, tomato jam, smoked ricotta and whipped
chicken liver butter.
6. Green is the new black. Fast-growing vegetarian
chains, such as Sweetgreen, Chop’t, Tossed and Tender
Greens, urge you to eat your vegetables.
7. The new Asian wave. Kimchee on burgers and pizza?
Schichimi togarashi on chicken wings? Chefs are finding novel uses for exotic Asian flavors and seasonings.
8. Tastes of the Middle East. Foodies fleeing turmoil in
Iraq, Iran, Egypt and other Middle East nations are
bringing their food to the West, including za’atar,
pomegranate molasses, shakshuka and freekeh, to
name a few.