Restaurant and Food Marketing Trends to Watch in 2016

October 29, 2015 | blog | By Mike Sullivan

Will Millennials still rule or will there be new restaurant and food marketing trends to watch in 2016? We looked at what market intelligence gurus from the UK, North America, and, of course, our in-house experts predict will rise in popularity in 2016 and made special note of those trends we feel are worthy of the attention of Challenger Brands.

1 – Technology is Still Tops

Market intelligence agency, Mintel, recently released its North America Consumer Trends report for 2016 and noted that the Millennial (18- to 34-year-olds) influence on technology – seeking speed, ease and convenience – will continue to impact the restaurant industry. This includes a trend toward visual communication with emojis, for example, in June 2015, Domino’s introduced text ordering that includes the use of emojis.

2 – Delivery on Demand

Another technology innovation is the use of apps that let customers order from your restaurant and have the meal delivered either by your drivers or by a third-party courier. The growing popularity of this service means there are more vendors for you work with to customize a plan suited to your Challenger Brand.

3 – Shareable Serving

Sharable meals are growing in popularity with restaurants serving the table a larger cut of meat or whole chicken for the table to share, along with accompanying sides.  Shareable plates are also appealing to Millennials who tend to view eating out as a social occasion to be shared with others.

4 – “Secret Menu Items”

Last summer, social media was all aflutter with news that established brand giant McDonald’s in the UK supposedly “leaked” info on their secret menu. The story was mostly hype, but it highlights Robert Cialdini’s sixth principle of influence: Scarcity. Even perceived scarcity will create demand for your product. For a Challenger Brand, this is a great way to generate buzz about your restaurant and stamp your unique personality on a social media campaign to let loyal customers in on the “secret.”

5 – One Extreme or the Other

A growing trend the Mintel report predicts will continue relates to extreme behavior. For example, in 2015, Olive Garden’s unlimited pasta pass, which allowed customers to purchase all-you-can-eat pasta for seven weeks for $100, was so popular, the chain reported selling 1,000 passes in 45 minutes. At the other end of the spectrum, all-natural, cold-pressed juices are still growing in popularity and mini- or small-sized high-calorie items are increasingly popular to allow customers to indulge without the guilt, such as Starbucks mini-Frappuccinos introduced in 2015.

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6 – The “Craft” Movement

Consumers, especially Millennials (notice a theme here?) have gravitated toward hand-crafted, artisan food and beverages in the last few years and that trend will continue. This is great news for Challenger Brands because the key ingredient to a successful craft product is a great backstory. Wrap your brand identity around all your products, your menu, your signage – everything –tell your story well and your audience will come. Want proof? Blue Moon, one of the most popular craft beers, is owned by brewing giant MillerCoors.

No matter which of these trends you choose to follow in 2016, pick the ones that best suit your restaurant’s personality and brand identity.


Mike Sullivan

President at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency


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