When it comes to food transparency, consumers’ tastes and demands are changing and it’s up to brands to switch up the menu if they want to remain appealing. Those spanning the food and restaurant industries are working hard – and fast – to offer healthier options and communicate food transparency and sourcing. Whether a fine-dining restaurant touts that it sources “farm-to-table,” a national fast-food chain announces it will serve all natural chicken or everyone in between promises a commitment to non-GMOs in food, consumers have the food and restaurant industry (quickly) answering their demand to provide healthier food and menus.

However, when it comes to marketing a food or restaurant brand, how can these brands stand out from the rest when everyone is telling the same story? How can it demonstrate to consumers it’s not just following a trend, but rather exemplifying itself as a leader among competitors? The reality is brands must work harder to stand out – even more so when so many brands are going after the same “new” target: millennials.

In a fast-paced industry inundated with messages of “changes,” “promises” and “commitments,” a brand that truly wants to differentiate itself must take a step back and look at ways it can position itself as that leader beyond just saying it.  

  • Leverage the Menu to Support the Brand’s Story – Limited time offers (LTO) are nothing new. The restaurant industry is highly familiar with these “specials.” However, executed in a creative way, a strategic LTO serves a greater purpose than just keeping the menu exciting. A LTO that aligns with the overarching message of all-natural ingredients, for example, goes beyond just telling consumers about its cleaner recipe; it also leads by showing consumers it is committed to its promise. It exemplifies the brand’s commitment to lasting change and gives the brand permission to communicate its message and be that leader at the industry table. Further, a carefully crafted LTO creates a sense of urgency and can increase traffic among new and returning consumers, while also generating a sense of newsworthiness. 
  • Tap the Experts – When many companies are touting that they are the ones doing it right, a food company or brand that pairs itself with a third-party expert immediately raises its credibility, establishing itself as an industry leader. For example, if a brand is looking to support its “fresh” message, it can partner with the board or industry group that represents one of the leading ingredients included in the signature menu item, such as the American Egg Board aligning with a breakfast chain, the Florida Department of Citrus or even the National Potato Council. Establishing a certification through an industry organization committed to the greater good further represents the brand’s commitment to healthy sourcing and food transparency, as well as provides borrowed equity from that organization. 
  • Is the Brand on ‘Target’? – Going after the millennial generation? Of course, everyone seems to be, and rightfully so. They are the fastest growing demographic that will soon lead the next generation of consumers, but they also prove to be one of the most difficult. Millennials know what they want. They demand local ingredients, as well as fresh food and transparency with regard to sourcing. They demand trust from a brand and will move on if they don’t find it. They are savvy – and they are the new target for almost everyone in the food and restaurant industry. While “fresh” is certainly the latest industry buzzword, brands must also apply a fresh perspective when engaging with and appealing to this new target – whether in the restaurant or on packaging – and, of course, brands must be social. Appealing to millennials doesn’t end at the marketing messages but must be woven throughout various aspects of the company or brand. Millennials have a greater interest in the story of their food. Offering a “behind the scenes” look and perspective of the brand through both marketing and PR can go a long way in earning millennials’ trust in food transparency. Brands can also further resonate with those who place a priority on health and good nutrition by enlisting a dietitian or nutritionist to work on behalf of the brand, as well as leverage as a media and brand spokesperson.

Above all, it is important brands don’t lose sight of who they are and that they stay true to themselves. While transparency is certainly the industry buzzword, brands must approach the issue in a way that is genuine and makes sense for the brand. It will go a long way with media and consumers. As brands continue to make operational changes to their food sourcing and remove recipe ingredients to keep up with consumer demands and trends, they must ensure they are getting the recognition and credit they deserve and standing out to those who matter the most – their consumers, millennial or not.


Joanna DiNizio is Senior Account Supervisor of Restaurant Practice at Coyne PR