Emerging Brands 2018: What’s the Recipe for Success?

Published On: May 9, 2018

Each year, Fishbowl surveys experts in the restaurant industry to gather nominations for our annual Emerging Brands report. In addition to asking respondents to submit brand names for inclusion on this list, we also ask a series of questions to gauge consumer opinion on specific industry trends, looking for changes year over year. This year’s survey illuminates the vast similarities as well as slight changes from 2017 to 2018.  Take a deeper dive into our findings below:
Trend Q1
TREND Q1: In your opinion, what factors combine to make a restaurant an emerging brand? (1 is the most important, 5 is the least important.)

  1. Quality is King. The quality of food and service remained the most important factor for respondents year over year.
  2. Value Rules. Consumers are willing to foot the bill, relative within each industry segment, for higher level food and atmosphere.
  3. Style Matters. 2018 respondents ranked service style (QSR, FSR, Fast Casual, Fine, etc.) as the 3rd most influential factor when selecting an emerging brand – which is up in perceived importance from 2017.
  4. Cheap Eats. Respondents ranked affordability as a less critical factor in brand selection this year. Now 4th on the list, it dropped in score from 2.6 to 2.1.
  5. Comfort Foodies. The quest for comfort – a brand’s easy, relaxed atmosphere – is the least important factor to respondents in both 2017 and 2018.

Trend Q2
TREND Q2: Please also rank these additional, more specific factors in the order that you think is most important. (1 is the most important, 5 is the least important.)

  1. Innovation Leads. Consumers continue to be drawn to innovative concepts. And year after year, innovation remains at the top of the list.
  2. Experience Seekers. Brands serving up out-of-the-ordinary dining events were especially likely to be judged as future successes – this factor remains at #2.
  3. Technology Served Here. Diners enjoy a side of technology with their meals – interactive apps and in-store kiosks were well-received and add to the sense of innovation consumers are looking for. Technology rose in consumer ratings this year, replacing ‘Healthy Foods’ as the # 3 ranked factor in brand success.
  4. Healthy Fare. Components such a being nutritionally aware, allergy focused, etc. slipped somewhat from 2017 to 2018, but it is likely that this has become a ‘given’ – consumers expect healthy choices from all brands, even when they are not seeking out brands that specialize in that theme.
  5. Millennial Milieu. Brands that cater to millennials were slightly higher on respondents’ radar this year over last. Although it is the last ranked factor, the importance rose from a 2.0 to a 2.2.

With “Innovation” top of mind, we asked respondents to select restaurant styles with the highest expectation for innovation in  2018. With a ranking of ‘Good’ or ‘High’, Fast Casual rose to the top, followed closely by Quick Service. At #3 and #4 for 2018, the percentages of Casual Dining and Fine Dining were higher than last year, while Family Dining fell in respondents’ expectations for innovation over the upcoming year.
Good/High Expectation for Innovation 2018
In comparing the attributes year over year, it still boils down to doing the right thing by your guests – providing quality food and service at a good value, and keeping things fresh and new either through innovative menu concepts, or unique experiences.  What is considered exciting and “hot” might change but the brands that emerge as leaders and continue to grow will consider these qualities as tenets of their success.
This blog was written by Fishbowl’s Katharine Dalton, Manager, Research Services. 
A full report and an extended list of the Top 30 Emerging Brands is available for download at: http://www2.fishbowl.com/EmergingBrands2018.html


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