Industry Marketing News

5 Predictions for Digital Restaurant Marketing in 2014

Restaurant Marketing Predictions

We’re making five, and only five predictions for 2014.

Rather than throw 10 out there and proclaim victory if we’re 80% or better, we present our top five digital marketing predictions for restaurants in 2014 that we’re absolutely certain will happen.

Check back in July and again in January 2015 and we’ll all celebrate having been correct 😉

1. This is the year of Restaurant CRM.

In 2014 I’m confident nearly all major chains will adopt technology — either internally developed or more likely through providers — that helps them build robust profiles on guests. Beyond the profiles, they’ll begin to truly understand how their businesses are performing and will make better marketing and operations decisions as a result.

Yes, far less management-by-gut in the industry; more strategic and informed decisions based on smart data. Restaurants will see sales by hour, by item, by likelihood-of-driving-return-visits (seriously). They’ll know precisely how successful each and every promotion (online and offline) was in driving sales and profits.

They’ll know whether their email campaigns didn’t drive simply redemptions (which they’ve always known), but whether they drove non-coupon-wielding traffic as well. And they’ll see and begin using extremely detailed transaction and visit frequency data on guests.

Now, there will be concerns about privacy by some consumers, as more and more restaurants adopt these providers’ services (see some of those providers in #2 below and in our Directory).

Mobile payments will make the headlines as the consumer-convenient trend (see #3); but restaurants finally building profiles of their customers will be the behind-the-scenes tidal wave.

2. At least 2 major loyalty marketing providers will be acquired in 2014.

This space is ripe for convergence, despite the fact that it’s also the same year that restaurant CRM officially takes off. There are so many great companies compiling deep and wide analytics for restaurants large and small, a fight will breakout between the behemoths we all know of, who want crucial insight into local transaction data and consumer profiles.

In 2011, Google acquired Punchd. In 2012, Facebook acquired Tagtile. This year, two or more of the following startups will be acquired: Pirq, Perkville, Perka, Belly, LoyalBlocksFront Flip, Venga, FiveStars, Buzztime, BuzzTable, and I’ll even add standard-bearer Foursquare to that list.

The suitors? Google. Facebook. Yahoo. Yelp. Gannett.

Read:  Google Analytics for Restaurants: The Essentials

3. Mobile payments will really go mainstream.

Yes, you can eat and drink at any number of restaurants, bars, and cafes in San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Austin, and New York City, and pay with your smartphone. But what about Louisville? El Paso? Fresno? Grand Rapids? Des Moines? Savannah?

I don’t mean “mainstream” as defined by Silicon Valley. I mean  the real kind. Where your typical Baby Boomer is aware of her ability to pay with her smartphone in a local restaurant — and does so. I mean, where, if you were to eat out once per day — at a different place each time — over the course of a week, you’ll encounter an invitation to pay via smartphone. That’s not the case today.

There will be convergence and shutdown by some companies in this space, just like there will be in the loyalty marketing world, but by the end of the year paying with your smartphone will be a more obvious opportunity in-venue and a more common behavior by consumers.

4. Online and offline will merge.

I don’t think every restaurant chain will embrace this one, but the forward-thinking ones will and it will set the tone.

We’ll see major restaurant brands get much better about how they measurably activate consumers from online follower to in-venue traffic. I think we’ll still see QR code campaigns drive some of this, but we’ll also see integrated campaigns driving social media fans and followers to locations, where they’ll interact with custom apps and experiences in order to win rewards.

Games. Polls. Videos. Challenges that start online but finish in-venue. Visits in-venue that generate email calls-to-action to return. And again, everything will be tracked and reportable. No more hoping and feeling.

We’ll stop thinking so much about restaurant marketing as being traditional versus digital. It will all just be marketing.

5. Apple’s reservation system soft launches.

You’ve undoubtedly heard the news? Apple has filed a patent to debut a system that combines making reservations, managing wait lists and even ordering items, all from the comfort of customers’ phones. It won’t blow everyone away until 2015, but I predict we’ll hear about the beta tests in late 2014.

This will rock every company in the Online Reservations and Waitlist categories in our directory…and several more.

About the author

Brandon Hull

Brandon is the original founder of He has helped thousands of restaurants implement innovative marketing strategies, campaigns, and tactics by incorporating new technology, in order to attract loyal guests.