Consumer Trends

3 emerging trends we’re watching in October

Restaurants’ marketing formula has gone far beyond showing consumers pretty photos of food with an adjective-heavy description. Now it’s all about showcasing culture. Not only do operators have to bring marketing down so individual customers feel a message is being delivered specifically to them, but they have to think beyond the menu, to what a brand stands for.

Here are some of the tactics we’re monitoring as the industry tries to win an increasingly hype-sensitive and socially conscious guest.

wendys instagram photo

1. Real-feel photos

Chains such as Taco Bell and Wendy’s are venturing away from perfectly staged photos in favor of a more organic look and feel. Wendy’s brand strategy includes bolstering a homespun presence on Instagram, while the taco chain’s banking on its “behaving like a fan” ad campaign to convey a more natural aesthetic, an approach that has already proved successful on social media.

2. Mass hirings

Building off the momentum from the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative led by Starbucks and supported by Chipotle, Domino’s and more, Taco Bell launched its #SeeMyPotential campaign in August to hire 1.5 million young adults by 2022. On a (slightly) smaller scale, Lazy Dog Café said it was hiring 200 people in one fell swoop.

3. Phraseology: Fine casual

It’s a phrase Shake Shack founder Danny Meyer uses to describe the tide of more chains focusing on high-quality food and service. “Fine casual means taking the cultural properties that fine dining, at its best, believes in,” he told Entrepreneur earlier this year. Fine-casual concepts, he explains, source responsibly, hire people who care about hospitality and sell products that match fine dining at a fraction of the cost, making the delivery far more democratic.

Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.


Exclusive Content


Starbucks' value offer is a bad idea

The Bottom Line: It’s not entirely clear that price is the reason Starbucks is losing traffic. If it isn’t, the company’s new value offer could backfire.


Struggling I Heart Mac and Cheese franchisees push back against their franchisor

Operators say most of them aren't making money and want a break on their royalties. But they also complain about receiving expired cheese from closed stores. "Don't send us moldy product."


In California, jobs are up, but traffic is down

The Bottom Line: Limited-service restaurants have not cut jobs in California, despite the $20 fast-food wage. But that doesn't mean it hasn't had an impact.


More from our partners