food for thought

Highlights from the 2019 Colorado Restaurant and Bar Show

This is why we love the restaurant industry: big-hearted, talented people pouring their hearts into helping make people happy. We just spent the past two days at the Colorado Restaurant Association’s Colorado Restaurant and Bar Show at the Colorado Convention Center, learning from speakers like Tabitha Mason of Zingerman’s Delicatessen on how to treat people right; Food & Wine Magazine’s Kat Kinsman on the prevalent mental health issues in the restaurant industry (and ideas of how to help); and Michel Nischan of Wholesome Wave, on how to make sustainability sustainable.  We’re so grateful to work in an industry led by these types of folks. Here are some highlights from just two of the sessions at this year’s show:


Restaurant Industry 2019 & Beyond

B. Hudson Riehle, Senior Vice President of National Restaurant Association

Thanks to Mr Riehle, hungry attendees got a big picture look at the restaurant industry, including how the economy is affecting the food and beverage industry, how Colorado is outpacing much of the country in terms of growth and jobs, the most notable food and drink trends of the moment, and the future of how we give customers what they really want, the way they actually want it.


What’s Hot

These “trends” aren’t fads; they’re here to stay: CBD, sustainability and global inspiration. According to the National Restaurant Association, the top 2019 food trends are cannabis/CBD-infused drinks, cannabis/CBD-infused food, zero-waste cooking, globally inspired breakfast and global flavors in kids’ meals. 

The top alcoholic beverage trends include craft/artisan spirits, onsite barrel-aged drinks, “culinary” cocktails (such as incorporation of fresh herbs), locally produced beverages, and rosé cider. 


New & Growing

A large portion of the presentation focused on HOW we are consuming food these days. Nearly 2/3 of restaurant sales are from off-premise sales – 38% of sales are due to carry out, 22 percent from drive-thru, and 3 percent from delivery. 

Meanwhile, “snacks” and restaurants that don’t serve alcohol (e.g. Starbucks,) are experiencing the largest growth of any restaurant sector.

Despite talks of the issues of labor retention and food costs, attendees left the presentation feeling hopeful. The restaurant industry is growing, the number of jobs are increasing, people want to be eating out more, and people appreciate and support the industry. 

And if you heard a group of women burst out with “who-hoo!” when Riehle mentioned that restaurants need to be focused on PR and marketing even more these days, that may or may not have been us 😀 


What do the big guys do to get “Butts in Seats”

Alex Oesterle, Chief Executive Officer, Blue Bear Creative

Thomas Pasque, Managing Partner, Mercantyle 

Mark Torres, Owner, Vertivine

This year’s Butts in Seats session focused in on enterprise restaurants. More specifically they asked: what are enterprise brands doing with their marketing spend to get butts in seats? 

Here’s a quick recap of important take aways:  

1. As a “big dog”, you absolutely must have a dedicated marketing person on staff. Not so much for executing your marketing initiatives, but instead to manage all of the moving parts. Their job is to manage internal marketing staff and/or agency partners to make sure that you are getting what you need to accomplish your goals. 

2. Speaking of goals, KPI’s (Key Performing Indexes) are mandatory. It is critical to understand what you are looking to accomplish and how you are going to measure success. If you are not measuring and watching for the change, you’re not going to understand where your money is working for you. You won’t know where to continue investing and where you should pull back. 

3. Make sure that people’s experience of your website is helping you to close the deal. There’s nothing worse than doing all of that great work to get a prospective customer, only to lose them on your website because it was too hard to find something basic like your address. 

4. Consistency. It takes multiple touches for a consumer to get to know your brand and create readiness to buy. You can help that process by making sure that your messaging is clear and consistent. Large brands with multiple cooks in the marketing kitchen run the risk of having multiple personality disorder with their messaging. That is a major disadvantage. Creating a brand manual that outlines who you are, and how you represent yourself, will ensure that your brand presents itself with strength: in the same light every time.

While these points were created thinking about what the big guys do or ought to be doing, they are tips every company can learn from. It’s never too early to set your business up for marketing success. If you’d like to know more about how these tips relate to your success, give us a call. We’d love to help. 


Thank you, Colorado Restaurant Association, for putting on another well-rounded and thoughtful Restaurant and Bar Show.

For more of this type of content, check out our “Top Things We Learned at the Colorado Restaurant Show” blog post from last year’s show here, and visit our website here to sign up for future blogs and newsletters.



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