A lot of turbulence was seen in the restaurant industry in the last year. COVID-19 led to a lot of changes in the industry, and many restaurants had to close their doors because of the restrictions on indoor dining.
But there are changes to the industry that are an improvement on how restaurants operate that are going to stay around for a long time.
The promise of long-term change is here. We expect the following changes to stick around:
Outdoor Restaurant Dining
Restaurant outdoor dining has been a very pleasurable trend. Spending time outdoors, breathing in the fresh air and enjoying watching the sun go down has been very nice. We've even found some interesting concepts come out in the past year:
- Igloo outdoor dining
- Outdoor dining pods
And some of the restaurants that people always wished had outdoor dining have finally opened up their patios and enhanced them. Restaurant patio dining is one of the best trends, in our opinion, because it helps people enjoy nature just a little more.
We expect that outdoor dining will be widespread even when masks and social distancing are completely behind us.
Some cities, small and large, have also allowed their city streets to close down to open up space for restaurants. This trend is one that a lot of locals hope will stay around because it makes walking in busy downtown areas more enjoyable and safer, too.
Restaurants that line the city streets can also use this opportunity to attract more customers and may even increase their overall seating capacity during peak season.
The culture and pride of a city can really be seen with the expanded space for restaurant seating. While some cities may abandon this trend, we expect that there will still be plenty that will keep it around at least through the end of 2021.
Drinks and Cocktails for Takeout
Takeout drinks and even takeout cocktails are some of the biggest improvements we’ve seen in the restaurant industry. Liquor laws have been relaxed, and when this happened, a lot of consumers and restaurant owners questioned why these relaxed liquor laws couldn’t stay around forever.
Cocktails can account for 30% of an establishment’s revenue, and when people can walk around town drinking their favorite cocktail, sales soar.
While sitting down at the bar will remain – it's a tradition for a lot of people – there's going to be a lot of people that want to take their drink or cocktail with them. Crowded bars are going to seem a little less crowded, at least initially, as some people won’t transition right back to crowded areas.
Meal Kits from Restaurants
Restaurant meal kits are nothing short of amazing. Let's be honest. COVID changed a lot of people’s perspectives, but one of the good changes relates to wanting to be home a little more often.
Sure, a lot of people can’t wait to sit at their favorite restaurant and enjoy a meal.
The ambiance, music and wait staff serving you is really nice. But when you’re rushing home or just want to have a date night at home, meal kits from restaurants are an amazing option. All you have to do is call in or order meal delivery kits to your home.
Restaurants do everything for you, but you simply pop the food in the oven and let it cook.
- Sit at home and watch a movie
- Bring the meal to a friend’s house
- Study and eat at home
These meal kits also allow restaurant owners to add an extra stream of revenue to their business that generates more revenue.
Meal kits are a win-win for everyone, and it’s one of the trends that we expect to continue well past the pandemic’s end.
A pop-up restaurant is the way that many restaurants were able to stay afloat during the pandemic. New food businesses went to virtual kitchens while many decided to open up pop-up establishments.
Instagram pop-ups also became a popular trend and is one where owners would use their own home kitchens.
Bakeries were very successful when creating their pop-up establishments and were able to fulfill orders from people they know. And through word of mouth, a lot of these bakeries have become huge, local brands.
Instagram pop-up restaurants are a trend that we expect to remain as potential owners try to fill the gap left by eateries that closed due to the pandemic. We expect these pop-ups to remain due to their:
- Low risks
- Low startup costs
Tastings and large-scale community restaurant events are also a trend that we expect to stay for years to come. When communities come together, it’s beneficial for everyone involved, especially the small restaurant owners that suffered significant losses in 2020 and 2021.
Delivery and Online Ordering
When indoor dining came to a halt, restaurants turned to delivery to make up for the shortfall. Restaurants that had delivery options available were able to transition easily, but others had to get creative.
Thankfully, there are delivery options from third-party entities that help restaurants deliver their food from a restaurant’s kitchen to the consumer’s door.
Delivery will remain one of the most popular options to stay around as many people still want to stay home and enjoy a night indoors. Companies, like GrubHub and UberEats will remain busy thanks to consumers choosing to order online and have their food delivered.
But delivery is just part of the equation.
We also expect online ordering to remain. People don’t want to call a restaurant to order food – they want to use apps. Since many restaurants have created apps during the pandemic and invested heavily in the process, they’ll continue offering easy ways to order online.
The systems and tools in place for online ordering make the entire ordering process easier and less resource intensive.
The restaurant industry has experienced massive changes in 2020, and while revenue and profits may have fallen, innovation has risen. Some of the innovations are bound to stay, offering consumers a much better dining experience.
And in many cases, consumers will have more options thanks to the coronavirus.