Top Restaurant Branding Trends 2018

The top restaurant branding and marketing trends of 2018

With today’s technology, it seems as if everything is moving and changing faster than ever. What was trendy 2 years ago, is not today. And customers also seem to have higher expectations of us keeping up with these trends. But we can’t simply remodel our restaurant interiors, or pay for a full rebrand every time trends change. That’s why we identified all of the 2018 restaurant branding trends, and narrowed them down to just 5 that you can easily implement into your brand, without breaking the bank.

1.Experiential Marketing

restaurant branding trends and design trends 2018. Restaurant marketing 101
Idea: Add plants or vines to a wall, or a neon sign that says something clever or witty.

Some studies show that the average consumer is hit with nearly 5,000 ad messages per day; this means you have to give them the wow factor in order for your brand to stand out. For location-based businesses, such as your restaurant, the best way to achieve this is through what is called experiential marketing. When it comes to creating experiential marketing, it all boils down to customer engagement.

What does experiential marketing look like in a restaurant? Starbucks. It’s not just about the coffee, or even the infamous logo, it’s about the experience they have created for their loyal customers. The warm, inviting neutral tones of the walls, and the many different styles and sizes of tables and chairs (whether you’re having a chat with a friend, a meeting, or getting some work done one of these is sure to fit your needs). 

But you don’t have to go big or go home on this one. Two great ways I have seen to bring in experiential marketing into a restaurant are: bringing in games (I’ve seen everything from video games, to Monopoly, to skeeball), and adding something that is “instagrammable” such as great wall art, your customers just might take pictures of, or in front of. 

restaurant, tourism and hospitality marketing idea that all your customers are sure to love
Idea: Add the name of your city – especially if your restaurant customers are tourists.


2. Simplify Your Brand 

You may have noticed a recent trend, in restaurant, hospitality and travel brands – Minimalism. And this isn’t just with the interior, it’s with the visual brand as well. It’s a trend that has been sweeping the design nation, because with today’s technology and social media, we experience higher rates of stimuli than ever before. So now, we simply want less.

Logo and branding trend - simple and minimalist
This logo did have an elaborate illustration. Then they took the most notable part of the illustration – the lightning bolt.

How do you “simplify” your existing brand?  Reduce the number of patterns and images on things like packaging and other customer-facing operational materials. Another way is to adjust your logo. Keep your logo, but simplify it. It can be as easy as removing some of the components of an illustration, or turning the illustration into a thin line icon instead. Or my favorite easy way to bring it back to simple? Stick to just 1-2 colors in your logo.

Another benefit of simplifying your logo is that it will go over a lot more. Why is this good? More opportunities for customer impressions! This can be branded images (with a watermark) for your restaurant social media page, or to-go packaging, such as disposable cups your customers can take with them.


3. Pops of Color

While white space is still trending, something we are seeing pop up a great deal in 2018 is color. We aren’t necessarily talking about inside your store, but with your branding and customer-facing materials. This is an especially popular trend in social media content, that I see many restaurant brands not yet taking advantage of. What can this look like? Social media posts, like the one below, updating your plain white menus to a pamphlet where each page is a different color, or add your gallery of colorful social media images to your website.

social media and marketing ideas for cafes, casual dining and restaurants
Some examples of adding pops of color to your store or social media pages.


4. Branded Everything, Everywhere – Even on the Go.

Custom branded togo cups boost your brand awareness and increase your impressions
Use branded disposable cups to reach your geographically targeted customers.

It takes 5-10 impressions to get a customer. That’s what they say. But unfortunately, due to the number of ads we are exposed to each day, it takes more like 8-20 impressions. And the most powerful impressions are in person. That’s why now we are seeing how important it is to brand everything we have that can be customer-facing; it increases the number of impressions, with little marketing effort required.

One of the historically most powerful impressions is a personal, in-person impression from someone we trust – a referral. And while a referral is difficult to get, we increase that chance by leaving our customers with an opportunity to refer, without even trying. For example, if Joe customer has lunch and takes his togo cup, branded with your logo back to his office, then all of his coworkers will see it. And many of those coworkers are going to ask if that’s where he went to lunch, and ask if it was good. This is why, as a marketing professional, I always recommend to my clients that they get branded disposable cups. It’s something we ALL take with us on the go. 

Here are 7 other simple ways you can brand and promote your restaurant better.


5. The Brand Story

One of the most significant trends we are seeing with customer behavior, is an expectation of authenticity. They want to identify with the company, and a great way to achieve this is by telling your brand’s story. I personally became a loyal customer of this one particular casual mexican restaurant after the owner told me he started the shop here to be closer to his daughter, and give her a place to work with flexible hours, while she was in nursing school.

Tell your customers why you started your restaurant, or how you give back to the community. Add it to the back of your menus, put it up on your website, tell your customers directly, and own it until it truly becomes a part of your brand.

restaurant brand story tips and branding tips for restaurant marketers 2018
Pick a short slogan or visual for your branding to remind your customers that you have a story.