5 ATL Restaurant Trends for 2015
From the curse of Instagram and the appetites of Millennials to out-of-town restaurateurs and a hiring crunch, we got the skinny on five restaurant trends from our experts at this morning's 2nd Annual Atlanta Restaurant Summit at Twelve Hotels.
1. Social media can make—or break—a restaurant.
“The most dangerous guest is the one who doesn't like it, and takes a photo of it, posts it on Instagram,” says Table & Main restaurateur Ryan Pernice. “And then they told, like, 3 million people how terrible you are. They're out there telling the story, which then becomes the narrative of your restaurant.”
2. Baby Boomers still pay the most. But Millennials have louder voices.
In a sort of corollary to point one, many of our restaurateur panelists say social media has given Millennial diners an oversized microphone, even though Baby Boomers still rack up the larger dining checks. Ryan again elaborates: “It's kind of replacing the comment card. They won't comment anymore. They Tweet.” Fifth Goup uses a marketing service to monitor its online reputation. As Robby Kukler says, you have 24 hours to address someone's grievance on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. “You have zero room for error, and that should be making you better,” says Legacy Group's Jeff Sime (here). “Being Instagram-ready all the time is something to keep in mind.”
3. "Fresh" and "experience" are the operative words for restaurants.
Diners are seeking an experience more than just food. It's why places like Krog Street Market are successful. “Now it's almost better to be tucked away as long as there's an experience there,” says Vantage Realty's Chris Carter (on right with Choate Construction's Brian Bollins). “It's about the experience. People like to go and find the undiscovered new place.” And Fifth Group's Robby says your menu should be in-season and local, an expectation that has been instilled especially in Millennials, who grew up watching Food Network. “It's about people wanting to know what is fresh, what they're putting into their bodies,” he says.
4. Atlantans are loyal customers.
“Atlanta has a sort of feeling that people are loyal to the homegrown restaurants,” Brian says. And our panelists say that dedication to local has been the Achilles' heel of many an out-of-town owned restaurant. “They think if they just build it, they will come. But Atlantans support the homegrown team,” Robby says.
5. Hiring is tough right now.
Having a great staff that's dedicated to giving customers a stellar experience is critical, our panelists say. And that's become tougher as more restaurants make their debut in Atlanta (some 10,000 to 15,000 new seats are headed here in the next year) and hiring has become complex. “I've been in the business since '87, and it's never been this hard,” Robby says.