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What are Multi-Location Restaurants (and Gary Vee) Talking About Now? 8 Trends from MUFSO

8 Trends from MUFSO

As part of our commitment to understanding both consumer and restaurant industry trends that have an impact on Proximity Search Optimization,™ we attended the Multi-Unit Food Service Operators (MUFSO) conference this month.

Major brands with thousands of locations globally mingled with emerging chain restaurants and franchises to talk about the issues and opportunities. These are just eight of the many insights we gleaned.

  1. Localized and personalized messages are more important than ever in driving consumer traffic. “You’re a media company first…restaurant company second. Contextual content is critical,” said Gary Vaynerchuk (aka Gary Vee) during his keynote. He stressed the importance of personalized offers, social engagement, and messaging to reach today’s mobile-first consumer. Maintaining a library of targeted, compelling, and relevant ads can help brands stand apart from competitors and connect with fans.
  2. Google served-up insights into the importance of mobile-local search, urging the industry to “ditch the old playbook and use the right digital tools.” They noted that 86% of diners decide where to eat spontaneously or same-day. Almost half (41%) of people don’t know where or what they want to eat prior to staring their searches, so restaurants that take their GMB (Google My Business) and Google 3-Pack presence seriously are at a distinct advantage.
  3. Convenience is more important than ever before. To-go and delivery have been growing at close to double-digit rates and restaurants are discovering that technologies and services like ShiftPixy can help them hire higher-quality drivers, in an effort to reduce the costs and brand issues related to third party delivery.
  4. Not all restauranteurs are afraid of the ghost. The ghost kitchen, that is. Although some brands are concerned that this new trend will cut into sales and dilute their brands, others see it as a way for growing chains to build new fan bases and provide delivery and out-of-home options without investing in a proprietary system and larger brick-and-mortar locations.
  5. Emerging brands are putting technology first, noted industry analysts T2n2K in their powerful overview of consumer and restaurant trends. Their study of top-performing restaurant brands revealed these commonalities:
    • To-go sales are critical
    • Dine-in growth was a differentiator
    • Excellent service is a priority
    • Retaining managers is important to them and they do it well
    • They shine on food presentation
    • Sales grew across all dayparts and they grew their average check slower, not passing operating expenses along to diners all at once
  6. Technology is now pervasive in all aspects of the restaurant business. We saw demos of automated ways to hire, train, and onboard, to expedite drive-through traffic via co-botting (an AI-assisted voice), to measure hand cleanliness and food temperature, to train hospitality workers via virtual reality, and to greet customers at kiosks via facial recognition. But age-old problems like wobbly tables are still a reality and FLAT believes that something that basic can ruin a dining experience and hurt reviews. Sometimes the simple things still are important, especially in our sharing-centric dining culture.
  7. But what about food trends? We sampled plenty of new options — many from local chefs and emerging brands. Healthy options and plant-based alternatives are clearly here to stay. More consumers want to know where their food originated and BurgerFi shared an overview of the farms they work with. Menu innovation is also a hot topic, and Tiffany McClain of Mimi’s Cafe shared her views on how to expand beyond breakfast. Among the innovative and fast-growing companies that were heralded (for food, culture, AND marketing) are &Pizza and Maple Street Biscuit Company. They both entered a “traditional” food category, but put unique spins on them.
  8. Humanity, transparency, culture, and communication (often facilitated by technology) were among the themes explored by a CEO panel, comprised of both big names like Taco Bell and Bloomin’ Brands and fast-scaling relative newcomers like Fox Concepts, MOD Pizza, and Cooper’s Hawk. Hiring and retaining talent is more important today than ever, and the best brands still put a high value on service delivery. In response to a question about a pending recession, the main takeaway was, “The strong players will use the competitive environment to build relationships with customers and come out even stronger. When times are tough, restaurants can be an oasis. If you can provide that experience, you may emerge a winner.”
Gary Vee and MomentFeed CEO Nick Hedges talk about today’s mobile-local consumer
Google gives perspectives on how mobile-local search generates ROI
MomentFeed’s Michelle Gerson “sees the future of training” with hands-free virtual reality

That customer intimacy can be delivered through having the right people AND the right technologies in place — especially as you scale.

To find out how to apply mobile-local search trends to your brand and locations, speak to a consultant.

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