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January 7th, 2019

What’s on Your Plate?

It’s that time of year again, the month where everyone and their mothers are talking about New Year’s resolutions. And we’re jumping right onto the bandwagon. We don’t want to talk about how you’re finally going to try the Keto diet or read more eBooks, because that’s all on you. What we really care about is the resolutions you make for your brand moving into 2019.

After spending years developing food brands from the ground up, boosting revenues for restaurant chains, and breathing new life into all kinds of hospitality brands, we’re evaluating our love for working with restaurants and brands in the food industry.

There’s no rest for the weary. When it comes down to business, it’s all about staying top of mind and beating the competition. This is especially true in the restaurant and hospitality industry, so here are a few key trends that we’re looking out for in 2019 that will help you and your brand stay ahead of the curve.

So, where is the restaurant industry headed?

More Apps, Duh.
Expect brands to use their own apps, as well as third-party apps, to drive visits through loyalty programs and incentives. The restaurant industry is continuing to use apps to create a brand buzz in the hopes of earning your loyalty.

Burger King recently accomplished this with a trolling late Q4,18 campaign that brought the #2 fast food burger chain to the parking lots of their #1 competitor. To promote the revamped app with a stunt tied to its arch-rival, McDonald’s, Burger King gave away 1-cent Whoppers to anyone standing within 600 feet of a McDonald’s while ordering from the BK app. The campaign worked! The stunt caught on like wildfire and mention of the promotion was all the more known attracting notable media attention. Not to mention, the app became #1 in the Apple App Store in the first few days of the promotion.


This trend for a personalized and fun way to interact with customers will continue in 2019 with big brands promoting delivery orders, loyalty programs, new menu offers, and LTO’s.

Automation. Don’t be scared.
With minimum wage on the rise and advancements in wireless technology and cloud-based storage, you can expect to see more robots and self-serve mechanisms as a part of the food industry. From self-driving cars to burger-flipping robots to mechanical drink-making machines, automation is no longer going to seem very Jetsons-like when the reality from labor concerns are mounting in the industry. Automation is becoming a more viable and embraced option.

Look to the roads and skies! Market leaders such as Uber Eats, GrubHub, and Postmates look towards capturing greater market space. A differentiator in the space will be those brands that can add delivery through drones. Uber is already on the move, allegedly designing a drone delivery system called UberExpress that could be operational by 2021, according to a recent report by the Wall Street Journal.

Autonomous vehicles will also help concepts with robotic automation and on-route cooking. Advancements in research and development from companies like Zume Pizza, the food delivery startup in the San Francisco Bay Area, will help expedite accessibility and adoption for greater scalability.

Personalized Guest Data.
With society being more connected than ever and usage of cellular devices only growing, restaurant customers expect personalization in their dining experience. Customers understand technology is paramount to this notion, but they don’t want brands to be blatant and in their face about it. You will see greater use of email marketing and geotargeting because of location access enabled on smartphones.

Key figures driving this digital interaction:

  • Over half (51%) of Americans want their waiter or waitress to remember them from a previous visit.
  • One in five (20%) Americans would book a reservation at a restaurant that could create a personalized menu for them based on their preferences.
  • 26 percent of Americans would use social media to research a restaurant.
  • 11 percent of Americans would book or confirm a reservation with a thumbprint on their smartphone.

The culmination of this data will be used to drive guest frequency, offers, and communication.
2019 will be fueled by the personalization of big data to give customers unique and memorable experiences that leave them wanting more.

Prepared Recipe Kits, Beware.
Blue Apron just became a penny stock, falling below the $1 mark for the first time as a publicly traded company. Shares touched a low of $0.88 — down more than 90% from their $10 initial-public-offering price in June 2017.

With investments in grocery delivery services like Shipt and Instacart only growing, and the ever-evolving operations from Amazon and Whole Foods being the industry leader and reshaping the norm, I believe meal-kit makers like Blue Apron will continue to falter and may not survive well into 2019.

How to Apply These Things to Your Brand

Despite best efforts, it’s difficult to find the time to make New Year’s resolutions — and even harder to make them stick.

Every year we set out filled with the promise of fulfilling our personal resolutions, but why only apply them to the personal world? You should reprioritize those ideologies and allocate those principles to your professional life, where you live and die with quantitative measurables. The best way for your brand to reach your 2019 goals is going to be with a little collaboration.

Taking all of these new trends into account, the big buzzword that will drive you crazy this year is “agile marketing”. So, what does that really mean?

Agile marketing is exactly what it sounds like. It’s assembling a team that can adapt and change with marketing trends. The need to be nimble is driving the tactics in how marketers interact with agencies. Many companies are looking to agencies to provide skill sets not core to their team (44% cited expertise as a top reason for engaging an agency), as well as the chance to expedite their scalability as new opportunities without the limitations of being locked with fixed assets, or overhead that may be antiquated. (In the same survey, 42% also cited flexibility and 42% cited ability to fill short-term gaps.)

When clients and agencies work synergistically it allows them to create a rapport that extends into all the work. It brings in a highly talented team that increases productivity across the board. A good partnership will allow an agency to take pride in their deliverables while maintaining flexibility in the collaboration process. It can improve the effectiveness of your organization’s entire marketing department.

Don’t do it alone.

A trend that is surely going to take a greater grasp within the hospitality industry is going to be a hybrid model in which agency personnel is embedded part-time, on-site with their client. This allows for more close-knit collaboration and a deeper understanding of your brand processes or needs, while still providing the agency enough autonomy and distance to deliver a fresh, outside perspective. I’m seeing this become more of the norm in the restaurant industry as it allows quick, relevant content to be distributed across various media while working in tandem with chefs and operators.

By nature, we gravitate to the status quo because the unknown scares us. That’s why it is prudent to work alongside a group that can provide fortitude and experience to drive momentum into new territory. Placing your trust in your team is vital in agile marketing because it requires active participation. It is with this idea that you and the team forge a relationship entrusting each other to bring out the very best, and if you falter, you have the opportunity to pivot quickly with lessons learned.

Set clear expectations and empower your team so they don’t have to run through the standard protocols of hierarchy. Not doing so defeats agility and will create bottlenecks along the way. For example, if a chef is being creative and came across some incredible new items and wants to push a great special; the photography looks beautiful, the food is delicious and at a perfect price point for profitability, but then everything is slowed down by chain of command, you may have missed that opportunity to drive traffic in fast for supplemental revenue. Layout guidelines and be consistent with management styles to allow for feedback and adjustment, but work together!

We can work together.

PPK can increase your sales, expose you to entirely new markets, and build your online presence, so you stay top of mind to audiences you thought you could never reach.

We have had tremendous success with our other clients in the food industry. We have a proven track record of creating campaigns that drive bottom-line results for our food brands.

  • We are pros when it comes to food photography
  • We have mastered web design and created seamless online ordering systems
  • We are experts at crafting engaging social content
  • We’re proficient in B2B marketing
  • We are driven by analytics and getting positive results for our clients
  • We know exactly what to say and how to say it to the right audience for your brand
  • We have a full-service in-house production studio capable of telling any story in a beautiful way

Let’s work together to reach your 2019 New Year’s resolutions. Say hi at hello@uniteppk.com.


About the Author
Jeff Philbin is the Restaurant & Hospitality Consultant for PPK, an independent advertising agency based in Tampa, FL that helps leading and high-growth brands accelerate the way they capture and grow their market share. He has spent nearly 15 years in the industry and has been featured in national publications and television.