Consumers are passing by white-tablecloth establishments in favor of casual, comfortable settings with unique, out-of-the-box food at a reasonable price. "Brands should appeal to consumers' sense of optimism and sell them an experience that builds their hope,” says Gary Edwards of research firm Empathica. “While there is an ongoing temptation to focus solely on price and promotions to drive purchase behavior in a tough economy, there remains an opportunity to stand out from the competition by creating unique and differentiating customer experiences.”

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