Dec 1 2023
Vanessa Allen

2024 Trends for Restaurant & Dining Marketers


As restaurant and dining businesses recover from the era of peak pandemic restrictions, the industry continues to show signs of improvement. As an example, for most of the past year, restaurant operators more frequently reported higher same-store sales than lower same-store sales on a year-over-year basis.

A graph charting restaurant operators' reporting of same-store sales versus same month in previous year. Most months since October 2022 show year-over-year growth. Source: National Restaurant Association, 2023.

Plus, the impacts of macroeconomic headwinds—inflation, increased food prices, the labor shortage, and supply chain disruption—seem to be easing. The forecast of continued (albeit stabilized) revenue growth, combined with the valuable experience of running leaner operations that restaurant and dining institutions gained during the early years of the pandemic, suggest that, while challenges still exist, there’s room for growth in the year ahead.

How can restaurant and dining industry advertisers whip up marketing recipes for continued success? Read on for three key trends to keep top-of-mind in 2024 to achieve greater visibility, provide more value to customers, and craft an enhanced dining experience.

Trend #1: Providing Value to Customers in Today’s Economy

The restaurant and dining industry was hit hard by economic downturn in recent years, as were its customers. Inflation has driven up food costs, which has affected the pricing strategies of restaurants, as they strive to maintain profitability while keeping prices competitive. Those prices have caused lower-income consumers to spend less on dining out and to visit restaurants less frequently—although the wealthiest diners are actually spending more.

Food service businesses are adopting strategies to up the value they provide, and then investing in marketing those approaches. For instance, some restaurants have lowered prices but adjusted portion sizes to match; others have provided discounts on slow days or at off-peak times; and others still have found that “more” is actually the way to go—Olive Garden’s famed “buy one, take one to go” option during the pandemic allowed diners to stretch their order beyond one meal.

“Value” can also extend beyond the price tag. Businesses that sell or serve food that’s healthier, more functional, or more sustainably sourced should highlight that connection to the values held by their diners. Instituting loyalty programs with incentives can also result in higher and more frequent spending over time, something 8 in 10 adults said that they’d likely join if offered by a favorite local restaurant.  

Though the economy shows signs of improvement, emphasizing value will continue to remain key in 2024. Marketing messages that highlight promotions, special offers, affordable dining options, and non-monetary value will resonate with discerning consumers.

Trend #2: Doubling Down on Delivery for Convenience

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of contactless and tech-driven dining experiences, as evidenced by the boom in third-party delivery services like DoorDash and Uber Eats. Today, consumers have come to expect, if not rely on, that level of convenience. As such, it’s no surprise that the food delivery market size is projected to grow.  

Part of that growth is due to the growing number of restaurants that plan to offer food delivery directly. Benefits to the food establishment include not paying fees to third-party delivery apps, and, in turn, passing those savings onto the customer by not marking up menu items; and building loyalty to the restaurant brand instead of the app. Plus, app downloads and associated loyalty programs have inherent marketing implications, such as the opportunity to own customers’ opted-in data and activate it through advertising and one-to-one marketing (like email and SMS), pushing promotions more directly to customers.

Embracing partnerships with third-party delivery apps also provides opportunities to create new revenue streams and relevant marketing touchpoints. Restaurants that aren’t leveraging the popularity of apps like DoorDash or Uber Eats may be missing critical visibility at key moments—last-minute supper plans, additional hungry party guests, or late-night snack attacks—as well as a chance to generate goodwill (if not repeat business) with app users. Once those valuable partnerships are forged, industry marketers can consider in-app advertising or app listing optimization tactics to reach and speak to customers who are hungry for convenience.

Trend #3: Creating Experiences That Excite and Satisfy

From birthday dinners to boozy brunches, consumers are continually seeking dining experiences that go beyond the food itself. These outings are often occasion-based, but sometimes, the allure of a hands-on cooking demo or a class on cocktail mixing can be the reason why people choose to dine out—and a memorable, shareable experience might result in repeat visits and word-of-mouth recommendations.

It took a few years, but the experiential dining trend is finally catching up with consumers’ desires for a unique dining experience. In that time, the a la carte menu of experiential options has exploded: Dinner theaters, multi-sensory dining, immersive environments, and augmented and virtual reality have all provided noteworthy nights out for the current generation of foodies.

Given that food is inherently visual, restaurant and dining advertisers can add this “experiential” layer to their marketing to tease the tastebuds of today’s experience-seeking customers. Faux out-of-home creative has become a popular way to attract attention, by simulating (or wildly exaggerating) a digital food or dining experience (Popeye’s and Burger King are two recent FOOH practitioners). Augmented reality for this industry has evolved past QR code menus to include interactive food visualization and immersive environment exploration.

Advertisers who present enhanced creativity by leveraging emerging technologies, high-speed data networks, mobile accessibility, and consumers’ desire for an innovative dining experience will whip up a marketing recipe that satisfies and delights.

Wrapping Up: 2024 Trends for Restaurant & Dining Marketers

While consumer dining behavior can change more drastically than a seasonal menu due to factors like the economy, technology, and social influences, there are a few things restaurant and dining marketers can focus on to drive success in 2024. By centering their messaging on value and dining experiences, and by tapping into the opportunities available in the delivery realm, marketing teams can gain and retain hungry customers in the year ahead.

Hungry for more 2024 trends? Check out our 2024 Trends Report for everything digital marketers need to know for next year.

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