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Online Trends

Published November 5th 2019

2020: Consumer Trends for the Restaurant Industry

Brandwatch data reveals some of the biggest consumer trends for the restaurant industry as we head into 2020. Discover what can be learned from 8,000 global survey responses and thousands of social posts.

Viral fights in fast food restaurants. The rise of the lone diner. The way no brand is able to escape a hostile political landscape.

2020 is not going to be a quiet one for the restaurant industry.

In our recent report on Consumer Trends for 2020, Brandwatch surveyed 8,000 people around the world and studied social posts around key topics and industries to see what shifts we could see heading into a new year.

Here, we’ll lay out six trends we’ve identified for the restaurant industry as we head into 2020.

Note: If you want to get more detail on the data to look at more wide-scale trends, make sure to check out the report itself.

1. Politics is unavoidable

Regardless of whether a restaurant is a fast food outlet or part of a sit-down restaurant chain, links to politics and politicians can cause outrage online.

When examining social media conversation around some of the biggest brands across the restaurant industry, politics surfaced as a significant part of the conversation. If brand executives support particular politicians or stances, the brand could be called out in a big way on social media.

For example, the following tweet caused so much of a stir it appeared in our report 101 times brands went viral in 2019.

2. Staff behavior is incredibly important

Not only can the behavior of staff lead to positive, shareable experiences (that we’ll talk about below), it can also create major issues for brand reputation.

Videos surfacing of staff getting into altercations with customers can be hugely damaging to a brand’s reputation – especially when the staff are clearly in the wrong.

We’ve seen a number of occasions in which tense situations have played out in fast food restaurants this year. You may have heard of the angry man in the bagel store, among many other examples. The way that front-line staff handle difficult customers can make the difference between a brand crisis and an outpouring of praise.

In our recent report Consumer Trends for 2020 we surveyed 8,000 people on what they thought were the most important traits for brands across different industries. In both fast food restaurants and more upscale chain restaurants, customer service proved important.

3. Lone diners and shareable experiences

Solo dining out is a trend that seems to be continuing to rise. This presents an interesting opportunity for restaurants – either solo diners can be neglected (after all, they’re not going to spend as much as a table of six), or staff can treat them to a delightful experience they’re likely to share.

Looking at big trends on social around restaurants, we found that solo diners who were treated great by staff were happy to share the fun experiences they had.

4. Vegan items continue to cause a stir

Uptake of vegan choices and lifestyles are rising quickly, especially with increasing concern around the climate.

We found that, especially in conversations around fast food, when vegan items were added to the menu there was a large spike in conversation on Twitter.

While sustainability was not as important as things like customer service, quality, and convenience in our survey on favorable restaurant traits, it’s still a big part of online conversation.

5. Quality, quality, quality

Regardless of whether our respondents were talking about fast food restaurants or higher end eateries, quality was resoundingly the most important factor.

Brandwatch image
Brandwatch image

Convenience and fast customer service were also very important for fast food consumers.

Meanwhile, friendly customer service was important for chain restaurant consumers.

Affordability, surprisingly, was valued more from chain restaurants than fast food places, suggesting that consumers don’t expect to pay exorbitant prices for a quality meal experience.

6. The continuing battle of online personalities

Something strange has happened over the last few years for brands in the fast food industry (among others). Their online presences have become… sassy.

In our report on 101 times brands went viral in 2019, we found that fast food brands were making huge waves in online conversation using humor.

Here’s an example:

This doesn’t look like a trend that’s set to go away any time soon. Will more fast food brands jump on the sass wagon and develop online personalities that make people laugh? We think the branded banter is only going to get more intense as we head into 2020.


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