22 of the latest bar and restaurant marketing trends in 2021

How to Market Your Local Business Ahead of the Competition

It’s now 2021, and boy, how things have changed within the hospitality industry. Since COVID-19 hit the U.S. in March of 2020, restaurants and bars have struggled to stay afloat. The National Restaurant Association conducted a nationwide survey and put together a report, released on December 7, 2020, detailing the shocking impact that COVID-19 has had on the hospitality industry. 

  • 110,000 restaurants (or 17% of restaurants) have permanently closed their doors. 
  • Of these 110,000 closed restaurants, 16% had been open for at least 30 years.
  • 48% say they’re likely to stay in the industry in the next months and years ahead.
  • 87% of full-service restaurants reported an average drop in sales by 36%.
  • 58% of chain and independent full-service operators expect that they’ll continue to furlough and layoff employees for at least the next three months.

The hospitality industry has been hit extremely hard and has had to adapt to survive, and now, customers expect more. In 2021, you have to keep up with the latest trends and safety precautions to drive customers to your doors. Offering online reservations, QR code menus, and having a good online reputation will no longer be enough to make you stand out from the masses.

So let’s take a look at 22 of the latest and greatest trends expected to emerge in 2021 and how you can start implementing them in your business right now to make your customers feel safe and draw them to your doors. And here we have 54 Tips for you to use when either reopening your doors or creating a strategy for your establishment in the pandemic world.

As a smart operator, don’t fall behind this year, read the following article to stay ahead of this year’s restaurant marketing trends.

2021 Restaurant Trends

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Online search trends for restaurants

How to Improve Your Online Search

1. Local SEO

If you have a strong base of regulars and your business is busy enough that you don’t need to drive any new traffic to your doors, you can happily skip this tip. 

Nevertheless, if you know what it feels like when your business is open, but only a few tables are filled (like many bars and restaurants experienced in 2020 due to COVID-19), you should consider stepping up your SEO game! 

Wondering what SEO stands for? SEO is short Search Engine Optimization, which focuses on improving your site’s ranking on the search engine results pages. As you can probably guess, showing up higher in the rankings will significantly help your business drive more traffic to both your website and your doors. You want to ensure that your site shows up when people in your area search for food and drinks near them! 

This is where local SEO comes into play. 

Not only do local businesses today need a strong SEO strategy, but they also need a separate focus on local SEO elements such as local content, online directory listings, and more. 

2. Optimizing for Voice Search

2020 has accelerated the use of technology in bars and restaurants as it’s making things easy, safer, and more convenient for customers. So it comes as no surprise that with technology like Google Assistant, Siri, Alexa, and Google Home, voice searches are on the rise. In 2019 alone, Amazon’s Alexa was used on over 60,000 home devices across the world. Statista predicts that in 2021, more than 132 million people will use a voice assistant once a month. 

Search engines, like Google, will find an answer to the user’s voice search query but looking at the top few results. Consider hiring someone to help with voice search optimization, or start educating yourself on SEO to adjust to this rising trend.

3. Online Reviews

Many consumers, especially millennials, consider online reviews to be equally as trustworthy as personal recommendations. BrightLocal reports, in 2020, 87% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses, which is up from 81% in 2019. And the same source reports that with COVID-19 as a major concern for customers, 67% of consumers said they wouldn’t use a business that didn’t have COVID-19 health and safety precautions in place. 

You can choose to either ignore this data or face reality. If you’re not asking for reviews from your customers, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to show up online to a highly relevant audience. Even if your business currently has a great ranking on the star scale, you should always encourage satisfied customers to leave online reviews for your business. 

Platforms like Google, Yelp, and Facebook are great, impactful platforms for reviews.

PourMyBeer Tip: If your restaurant or bar is struggling with reviews, we recommend you…

  1. Start with your regulars. Reach out to your faithful customers and ask them to describe their positive experiences at your establishment on their preferred platform.
  2. Coordinate with Yelp to organize an event with Yelp elite. You will be pleased with the positive boost Yelp elite’s word of mouth and reviews will bring to your business!
  3. Ask your friends, family, or even your staff to write a few sentences about what they like the most in your establishment. 

If you receive negative reviews (hey, they’re inevitable!), nicely reply to the negative comments to show that you are actively trying to fix any issues they may have had, even if it was not your fault. 

4. Geofencing

Geofencing is a powerful tool that can help you increase brand awareness and increase foot traffic. It is a trend that will be crucial in 2021 due to its ability to limit face-to-face interactions. So what exactly is geofencing? Geofencing is a facet of paid advertising, which creates a virtual boundary around a physical location for creating a list of users to target.

You can use geofencing to get exposure in front of the target audience that is most relevant to your business by tying it to specific events, competitors’ locations, and more! With pinpoint accuracy, your brand exposure will increase, and you can communicate your business’s message at the most appropriate time.

5. Local PPC

If you don’t appear on the first page among organic search results (results of your successful SEO), you may consider paid search advertising. Check out your Google Analytics to see where your traffic is coming from. 

Local pay per click advertising (PPC) helps you get hyper-specific on things like location, keywords, and time of day at which you’re advertising. Another big benefit? You only pay if or when someone clicks on your ad. 

PourMyBeer Tip: Google Ads allow for very detailed customization so you can get the most out of your bid by not only bidding on location but also specific times of day – lunch, happy hour, dinner, late-night – whatever it is that makes the most sense for your business.

Restaurant Technology Trends

How To Embrace Technology in 2021

6. Contactless Ordering

During 2020, restaurants and bars had to innovate to safely and efficiently serve their customers. Thus, many restaurants implemented contactless ordering at the table to eliminate several interactions and touchpoints that could spread germs. 

Now, many diners will find a scannable QR code at their table. Customers can use their mobile devices to scan the code and gain access to your restaurant’s digital menu. Guests can even place their orders online and pay at the table. 

7. Mobile Check-Out

App-based check-out is no longer just for big-name brands like Chipotle, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, etc. Your smaller establishment can now have an app of its own, too! Having a mobile app helps businesses in several different areas, from brand equity to brand loyalty. But the main trend for the rising popularity of mobile apps is the seamless process for check-out. 

This trend became so popular in 2020 due to the safety and efficiency that comes with it. It gives diners the ability to pay through their phone, eliminating the exchange of cash or cards to limit exposure to germs. 

8. Put Self-Serve to Use

McDonald’s has slowly been making the switch to self-serve, and as of 2020, all U.S. McDonald’s have self-serve ordering kiosks. They’ve been looking to accelerate their self-serve initiative, and it’s not just the efficiency they’re looking for. 

In 2019, the majority of restaurant chains dedicated 25% of in-store labor to taking orders at the counter. So implementing new and innovative ways for customers to order can significantly reduce the cost of staffing. 

BRING A SELF-SERVE BEVERAGE WALL INTO PLAY

Self-serve beverage walls are a great solution in the pandemic world as they allow guests to maintain social distance and reduce touchpoints. With self-pour, customers can approach the wall whenever suits them, which reduces crowding and allows for a safer environment. Self-pour technology allows operators to simplify their operations resulting in fewer staffing issues and lots of saved time, money, and headaches.

For more on how self-pour is a safe solution in the pandemic world, check out our 5 reasons why here

Besides saving your patrons time by not having to wait in lines, self-pour systems also decrease product waste from around 25% to as little as 1% and typically increase your beverage sales by 45% or more.

The more your customers drink = the higher your profit from beverages! Having a self-serve wall can help you stand out in today’s highly competitive restaurant market. A self-pour system does particularly well if you offer a variety of wines or craft beers.  

Beer enthusiasts love having the choice to sample and taste new craft beers before committing to an entire pint or glass! With a self-serve beer wall, customers can pour just a few ounces of an interesting beer, then pour themselves a whole pint or glass of their favorite!

A self-serve system is a unique experience that your patrons will love to share, helping you get more exposure in front of a broader market!

We also have a great article for operators looking to sell more drinks, which you can check out right here!

Self-Pour attracts millennials

any questions?

We have thrown a lot of information your way already! If you have any questions or want to know how we can help you increase your beverage sales, fill out this form!

2021 Online Visibility Trends 

How to Boost Your Visibility 

9. Untappd - Craft Beer is King!

If your bar or restaurant offers beer beyond Bud Light and Coors Light, you cannot skip the opportunity to be on Untappd. Untappd, in a nutshell, is Yelp for beer, especially craft beer

This massive beer database has over 8.5 million beer users and includes information about 2.3 million brewskis! Untappd gives you information about the beer’s style, IBU, ABV to tasting notes described by the users. It provides users with an opportunity to rate the beers they try and search for beers in their area. 

The most important part of Untappd is its social aspect. Millennials and Generation Zers are leading the craft beer boom. If this is the crowd you’re looking to reach, you must take advantage of this platform. By encouraging customers to check-in the beer that they’re trying at your establishment, you can gain exposure in front of other users with similar tastes!

Most commonly, Untappd’s beer board is displayed above PourMyBeer’s beverage wall

10. User-Generated Content

A product praised by your friends is much more powerful than any company message, period. So content that comes from your customer base is priceless. Since user-generated content can go far beyond social media platforms, it’s crucial to use it to your advantage. 

Not only can you use this content on your website, in promotional videos, and re-share it on your social channels, you can also use it for a photo collage or individual photos on your establishment’s walls. This type of strategy can create a ripple of social influence that can drive new customers to your door and positively impact your business. 

PourMyBeer Tip: To give your customer-generated content authenticity, use a screenshot of the entire screen to show what platform and which user the content came from when showing it off in your newsletter or on the website. 

PourMyBeer on Instagram

Innovative technologies such as self-serve beverage walls provide a great opportunity for provoking natural, user-generated content. 

How Do You Get Customers to Create and Share User-Generated Content?

1. Have a space that is visually appealing and unique, so they will want to share it online!

2. Offer your customers an incentive for tagging your location or using your unique hashtag.

PourMyBeer Tip:  Don’t put all your eggs in one basket and rely on user-generated content only. Have some of your creative staff allocate 30 minutes of their shift to creating visually appealing content. You can even offer your staff incentives for creating content for your business.

11. Influencer Marketing

You may have heard of social media influencers, most commonly on Instagram and YouTube. Nowadays, you can reach out to social media users who have a good number of followers and pay them to post about your company or product. One of the biggest benefits of this type of marketing is that you can find influencers with the exact target audience you want to reach!

Influencers are not free, however. Typically, the cost depends on the number of followers the influencer has. Many businesses reach out to micro-influencers, influencers with less than 100k followers, as they provide great results and are less expensive. According to a 2019 report by Fohr, micro-influencers have the highest engagement on their posts. 

In 2021, many users are looking for value-driven content and want to interact with influencers who connect with their followers. Keep an eye out for influencers in your area who seem like the right fit for your business and you can significantly increase your exposure online! 

PourMyBeer Tip: If you’re planning a special event at your establishment, invite food, wine, or craft beer bloggers and influencers. 

12. Engaging & consistent online content

In 2020 alone, Statista found 3.6 billion people were using social media and it is predicted that by 2025 there will be 4.41 billion active. And given the industry you’re involved in, you should be utilizing these great and highly visual online platforms to reach a larger audience. 

If you have not done so already, 2021 is the year to step up your content calendar game. If done properly and consistently, it can help increase your brand awareness. 

PourMyBeer Tip: Spice up your social media game with online contests and videos. 

In 2021, videos are the king of all content as they’re the best way to create engaging and captivating content in a matter of seconds. And you can easily create high-quality videos for just a few hundred bucks. You can use videos to boost your social media engagement, as well as add a new visual component to your website. 

According to Business Insider, videos will account for an overwhelming majority of traffic in 2021. So there’s no better time than now to give your audience great, engaging videos to watch! 

PourMyBeer Tip: If something fun/newsworthy is happening in your business, don’t hesitate to grab your phone and stream a live video!

Lifestyle trends seen in restaurants

How to Embrace Lifestyle Trends in Your Establishment

13. Accessibility

Throughout 2020, many people were looking to reduce their environmental impact or just become healthier in general. This created a boom in the plant-based market that is now going to be seen as a large trend in 2021. 

And with Veganism becoming a popular dietary lifestyle in the past decade or so, it only makes sense to offer plant-based options to those with dietary restrictions. Dietary restrictions like this, gluten allergies being another example, are becoming a fact of life for many people, either by choice or for health reasons. 

Many establishments offer several items that are friendly to various dietary restrictions. To ensure you are appealing to a wide demographic of customers, it is good practice to do the same. It requires a bit of extra effort and flexibility, but it can be worth it if it means acquiring more customers and a more diverse clientele overall.

Transparency

In a similar vein, customers also highly value transparency, and it’s one of the primary influencers of consumer behavior. If you own a restaurant in 2021, you should make sure to take advantage of that fact.

Make your menu transparent by providing a detailed description of ingredients for customers who may need it. Alternatively, you can create a different menu listing menu items by dietary restriction, clearly labeled. This can be separate from the main menu you give to guests upon entry.

The more transparent you are, the more likely you are to give every customer a pleasant and stress-free experience at your restaurant, making them much more likely to come for return visits.

food in restaurant

14. Sustainability

Increased sustainability was one of the most notable trends of 2019 and 2020, and it’s undoubtedly going to be just as big, if not bigger, throughout 2021. For that reason, recycling is not enough to call your business green.

Sustainability is a special approach, focusing on reducing waste to a minimum for every aspect of your business. If you have a strong sustainability strategy in place, you may want to make it known to your customers, especially if your main customer base consists of millennials, as they are known to care for a green approach.

Following Starbucks and other big-name brands, the trend of eliminating unnecessary plastic, such as straws, will continue. If you want to keep up with the trend and position your establishment as “green” or an eco-friendly business, organize a staff meeting this week and have a brainstorming session on where your business can reduce waste (and potentially cost).

PourMyBeer Tip: This is where a self-pour beverage system could come into play. Rather than having hundreds of bottles and cans stored in your establishment, keep track of just a few kegs. The use of self-pour tech eliminates plenty of waste and allows for a more sustainable method of beverage dispensing compared to the traditional staff-pour method. 

15. Get recognized for your awesome work environment

Customers like to feel good about the places they spend their money and that certainly is not going to be the case if they know you mistreat your employees.

Care about the well-being of your staff and become part of their success stories. This may seem like a daunting task to a business owner, but it can have a huge impact on your bottom line in the long run.

PourMyBeer Tip: Ask your staff to leave a testimonial or quote about your business on platforms like Glassdoor and try to incorporate it in your social storytelling.

16. Convenience, Fast Service, and the Snack Craze

For millennials, and even more so for Gen Zers who are slowly becoming a larger part of the restaurant industry’s purchasing audience, convenience and quick-service are very important. Food plans are often done on the fly rather than reserved several days before. In fact, recent research shows that 85% of diners choose their dinner restaurant on the same day the meal occurs. It is not surprising, then, that the fast-casual restaurant market is booming.

On top of this, the way that people are eating their daily meals is also changing. In the interest of healthier lifestyles, many people are replacing meals with smaller and healthier snacks that are quicker and easier to eat, which some are calling the “snack craze.”

So what do you do with that information? You don’t necessarily need to alter your entire menu and change your service structure. But these are two trends that are certainly good to keep in mind and take advantage of in any way you can. Maybe you can add a takeout system to your restaurant and add staff to ensure quick preparation. Perhaps you can add a low calorie or snack section to your menu, or offer lower-calorie options for existing dishes. There are always ways to fit things in without changing your whole bar or restaurant concept.

Data trends in bars and restaurants

How to Use Data to Your Advantage

17. Utilize DATA to Reduce Cost of Operation

It is important to consider the data accumulated from your business regarding which hours you are busiest, and how late customers tend to stay at your establishment. If your license allows the bar to stay open until 3 AM, that does not mean your bar has to stay open late. Look at your sales data and carefully evaluate if it pays off to stay open late – is the business even profitable? The same goes for staffing needs. You should consider how many staff you need to have working, or whether you want to pay for staff to work later hours.

PourMyBeer Tip: Track your busiest hours that often vary from day to day to avoid overstaffing, which leads to high operation costs.

18. Satisfy Consumer Needs

Once you have some data gathered from your consumers’ behavior, you can use these insights to inform how you serve them in the future. For example, data can show you which menu items are the most and least popular. With this information, you can potentially investigate through direct interaction why certain items work better than others, and make adjustments to the lower popularity items to increase demand. You could also run promotions on certain items to generate more awareness and increase demand overall.

19. Data-Driven Marketing

It’s tough to deny that using highly generalizable marketing campaigns and reaching a larger segment of customers is an easy route to pursue. But taking the extra step to target and segment your marketing campaigns can go far. In the age of The Internet, digital marketing is the most common modus operandi, but you need to be strategic. 

Maybe most of your customers use Facebook instead of Twitter. Maybe visits to your website aren’t getting people to become consumers. These are all questions you will want answers if you want your marketing efforts to be productive and value-driving.

The best way to get started with this is to use analytics platforms to track your marketing campaigns as well as consumer behavior. Google Analytics is a widely used platform, as are Crazy Egg and Heap Analytics. These will let you know how your online users are behaving in terms of your website and online presence.

You can use insights from the data you find from these analytics platforms to fine-tune your marketing strategies. With the use of certain advanced tools, you can change website behavior based on whether a user has bounced several times on your home page or stayed on for a while before exiting. There are so many strategies you can employ to get the most of your leads, and it all starts with the data.

Off-premise Trends

How to Develop Your Off-Premise Offerings

20. Don’t Let Ghost Restaurants Eat Up All The Profit

Ghost restaurants are businesses that don’t serve food on-premises and focus exclusively on serving customers through food delivery. They became a popular method of foodservice in 2019 and continued to grow in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic due to necessity and means to survive. 

Now, these specific business models are starting to overtake big cities. They target the busy, workforce audience who long to eat in their homes (as many of us do already these days). It looks as if this method of operation will continue well beyond 2021. 

So if you haven’t done so yet, there is a significant opportunity to grow your market by adding an off-premises component to your business. 

21. Third-Party Delivery Sales SkyRocket

The COVID-19 pandemic has skyrocketed the hospitality industry into a new age of food delivery service. With this increase in food delivery comes a rise in third-party players like DoorDash, Grubhub, and UberEats. Over the past year, the National Restaurant Association has been working to define the best practices for third-party delivery services. This is the first time the restaurant industry and third-party delivery services have come to terms to form the basis of their relationship. It is crucial to form this relationship now as digital sales are estimated to grow 70% over the next five years over pre-COVID projections.

Unless you have your own delivery system, explore the option of partnering up with one of these third-party players. Not only will you be able to please your regulars who either don’t feel comfortable dining-in or just don’t feel like dining-out sometimes, but you will also be able to increase profits and get more exposure for your brand.  

PourMyBeer Tip: Partnering up with bigger third-party platforms will help to offer more visibility towards new customers. Although, you should consider the fact that these delivery partners take a portion of your sales, so that is something to be aware of.

22. Bringing the Restaurant Home

Now that many customers don’t feel comfortable dining-out at restaurants it is time to bring the restaurant to your guests. You can offer meal kits in which you provide all of the necessary ingredients for your guests to make one of your most popular dishes in the comfort of their own home! 

To take it up a notch, you can offer different package levels that include different items. For example, add a nice bottle of wine or maybe even some table decor so customers can feel like they’re dining at your restaurant. 

We would love to hear from you! Let us know what other trends you think we should add to our list and which ones you plan to embrace this year. Feel free to share your ideas with us at cheers@pourmybeer.com, and don’t forget to share this list of new trends to look out for in 2021 with your friends on social media!

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We hope you have found these 22 tips helpful! To learn what key performance indicators you should be measuring to gauge restaurant/bar success, click the button below. 

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