May 17 2018

Fishbowl Highlights Current Trends for Smaller Restaurants

Online ordering and delivery for smaller restaurant brands has increased across the board, according to a recent survey of clients by Fishbowl’s Independent Restaurant Account Team. Fishbowl, the leading data, marketing and analytics solutions provider to restaurants, is using this information to better develop campaigns for its smaller restaurant clients.

“The survey is being used by Fishbowl so we can help restaurant owners meet ongoing challenges in a highly competitive hospitality industry,” said Cacie Waller, Vice President of Professional Services for Fishbowl. “This is particularly true for the operators of smaller restaurants as they face their own unique set of issues.”

The findings also provided insights on menus and indicated that a preponderance of smaller restaurants are reflecting gluten-free and vegetarian options to accommodate clientele, and many are paying greater attention to menu labeling. One surveyor said, based on her client discussions, Millennials are being drawn to trendy restaurants that offer organic “picturesque plates” and overall healthier meal options.

While there was an uptick in online ordering and delivery, a downside indicator is that smaller restaurants are having issues with employee retention. One of the surveyor’s clients suspected that this was due to a “widget” economy where people are opting to work jobs like Uber, Lyft, and Rover where they can select their own hours.

Responses on client marketing tactics revealed that promotions and drink specials are routinely held at least once a month, with emphasis on “Happy Hour” as a strong driver of customer traffic. Also gaining more momentum, are combo meals offered on specific days of the week. While promotions are used by many, some smaller brand owners hesitate to offer deals or promotions because of budget, or a belief that it will “cheapen” the brand. Smaller brands are also gravitating towards special occasions that help develop a sense of community. One surveyor found that wine dinners and events, paired with alcohol vendors, has gained in popularity.

Another key finding is that there has been a significant increase in the attention paid to customer reviews. “Knowing that within seconds a customer can share a photo online of what they’re eating while representing that restaurant’s brand, quality of food, and, at times, service levels, shows the power of social media,” said Waller. “It’s an instant review shared with that customer’s network, and many smaller restaurants certainly rely on feedback to retain existing guests and gain new ones.”

Fishbowl has found that an increasing number of smaller restaurant brands are trying to create unique experiences for customers in the restaurant space. Additions such as delivery services or menu items that fit special dietary needs are aimed to accommodate customer needs and ultimately, create a personalized and enjoyable customer experience.