It’s no secret social media has completely altered the way fast-casual restaurants interact with their customers. Social has grown to become an essential part of food service brands’ marketing strategies, from increasing overall awareness to connecting with diners anywhere, at any time. But more recently, social media has evolved even further to become a hub for brands to connect even deeper with their customers, and more importantly, foster a loyal community of followers in today’s digital age. 

In our most recent Social Media Trends Report, written in partnership with Talkwalker, a leading consumer intelligence and deep listening company, we uncovered 10 major predictions brands should anticipate to stay ahead of the curve in 2023. The restaurant service industry, in particular, has seen an influx of social trends over the years that often end as quickly as they go viral. By simply being better listeners and using more immersive consumer insights to get closer to their communities, restaurant brands can quickly hop on the bandwagon before diners go onto the next best thing. 

To stay relevant and continue to appeal to target demographics, fast-casual brands must leverage social media to enhance digital customer service, foster community-building, and obtain precious customer insights. Looking to learn more? We’ve highlighted the top three trends for restaurant industry professionals below:

Trend No. 1: Customer service is becoming more social 

Consumers have an increased sense of urgency post-pandemic, and customer service is no exception. Instant delivery services and contactless pick-up options are just a few examples of consumers wanting near instantaneous service, with little to no kinks. Regardless of what you’re cooking up in the kitchen, the quality and consistency of your customer experience (CX) on digital channels is what will keep diners coming back for more. 

Brands that are known to respond quickly are already ahead of the game. Without these carefully curated, personified responses, unhappy users are bound to pile up and make themselves heard, and not in the way you want. This year, we anticipate a larger number of brands will establish specific social media support mediums within each platform, facilitating quick and effective responses, especially with direct messages (DMs). Beyond the effectiveness of meeting your customers where they are, brands using social as a constant support medium is more cost effective in the long run. 

The alternative to serve these same customers through traditional mediums are far more expensive and costly while social allows businesses to save money, handle conversations more efficiently, see a positive ROI and ultimately lead to higher customer satisfaction. Food service brands must test and expand into new channels where their connected customer lives and shift their engagement strategy from active to passive to maximize retention. 

Trend No. 2: Community building has become prominent in the restaurant world

Although brands might have initially leaned into “personas” to better understand their target customer, we now expect brands to gain a deeper knowledge of their consumer ecosystems and target broader brand communities. This is particularly interesting for the food service industry, given the vast presence of deeply in tune brand advocates and influencers in this space. From “Instagram-worthy” plating to TikTok food reviews, your brand cheerleaders are everywhere and have more power than ever. 

We anticipate influencers of all sizes, employee advocates, and even average consumers will be engaged within brand communities to generate authentic connections and consumer-led content. While content creators are still getting started on larger platforms like TikTok, Twitter, and Instagram, more private communities on alternative platforms such as Discord are starting to gain traction. 2023 is the year brands will begin capitalizing on the dynamics of community ecosystems to foster more authentic relationships and meaningful connections.

Trend No. 3: Predictive analytics is disrupting marketing

Predictive analytics isn’t all that new, but it’s making waves across the marketing industry and will drive decision-making moving forward. While deep listening provides the social media metrics needed to make informed marketing decisions, predictive analytics taps into AI to anticipate the next big wave before humans can. This capability offers immense potential to industries like food and beverage to help keep up with the thousands of new trends popping up each day. 

Rather than working tirelessly to anticipate the next big social movement, topic, or campaign in their industry, predictive analytics offers marketing professionals a digital crystal ball into the most valuable industry data. Food service brands can get started by tapping into social media listening or CRM data to scout recurring patterns and accurately predict the best plan of action to drive ROI. 

The future of social media marketing is at your brand’s fingertips

Social media has transformed into a non-negotiable business tool for fast-casual restaurants to level up their digital customer service and break through the overly saturated digital ecosystem. From viral TikTok recipes, popular Instagram hashtags, Facebook memes, and more, brands that know how to discover and engage with trends in the early stages are much more likely to have their voices heard. 

Attiya Ali is currently a Business Value Consultant with Khoros and has spent the last 4.5 years with the company supporting its largest enterprise customers. She has over 9 years of experience spanning digital strategy, brand strategy, analytics and social listening, customer value and ROI, influencer/advocacy, and crisis management. She is currently based in Austin, Texas. 

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