Our industry may have changed forever — here are the pandemic-related restaurant trends we expect to see stick around post-covid.
There’s no way around it. The pandemic is changing the restaurant industry forever. Some of the things we’ve seen pop up since 2020 may not stick around for the long haul, like outdoor seating in the winter. But, there are many restaurant trends that consumers have come to love and have helped restaurateurs expand the dining experience and slim down staffing needs. Here are some of the trends we expect to stick around once we’re truly on the other side of the pandemic.
QR Codes? Really?
To decrease face-to-face interactions, many restaurants implemented some form of online and mobile ordering. Whether just for take-out orders or for a complete dining experience, online ordering technology grew exponentially since the start of the pandemic. Nowadays, It’s more strange not to use a QR code or online platform while ordering.
According to the National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) national household survey, 40% of operators, from fine-dining to coffee & snack establishments, said they added contactless or mobile payment options. Additionally, half of the full-service restaurants surveyed claimed to have added QR digital menus since March 2020. Online ordering can help reduce the need for staff to take orders, whether for in-door dining or takeout. Since staffing is notoriously difficult in our industry, we predict online ordering platforms will stick around for the long haul as a solution to staffing woes and streamlining the dining experience.
We’re all living in New Orleans now…
In response to the pandemic, 33 states and the District of Columbia implemented temporary laws allowing for restaurants to sell off-premises cocktails, in addition to wine and beer. So far, 15 states have adopted the legislation permanently. It seems the ability to purchase cocktails with take-out orders was a significant hit among consumers and restaurant owners alike — making this a covid related restaurant trend that’s quickly become a part of the new normal.
The NRA’s survey states that 35% of consumers are more likely to order take-out from restaurants that offer alcoholic beverages to-go as well. Additionally, the survey shows that 7 out of 10 full-service establishments have started selling alcoholic beverages with takeout orders. The ability to expand alcohol offerings for off-premises consumption creates an additional revenue stream for restaurants and bars that will continue to be crucial post-covid.
Delivery: Because people cannot cook to literally save their lives.
With services like GrubHub and DoorDash, food delivery was already a growing restaurant trend pre-pandemic. Once COVID-19 hit, take-out grew off the charts, not just with 3rd-party delivery services but also with in-house delivery and curbside pickup.
The NRA’s household survey showed that 53% of adults claim takeout or delivery is essential to the way they live, and 68% of adults said they are more likely to purchase takeout food now than before the pandemic hit. Many full-service restaurants invested a lot to adapt and create better off-premises offerings, which will be necessary moving forward as consumers’ demands drive the trend.
And those who can cook, need a lot of guidance.
Meal Kits started well before the pandemic with services like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh, but restaurants hadn’t adopted this form of takeout pre-pandemic. Now, every restaurant seems to have a meal kit option, or more likely, a meal bundle that includes appetizers, an entree, and perhaps dessert or a bottle of wine.
Of all adults surveyed by the NRA, 30% said they are more likely to order takeout from a restaurant with a multi-course bundled meal, and 56% of adults said they’d likely buy a DIY meal kit if offered by their favorite restaurant. The NRA’s survey also found that 50% of fine dining restaurants and more than 4 out of 10 family and casual dining restaurants began offering bundled meals for takeout. As consumer demands drive the need for off-premises dining, meal kits and bundles allow restaurants to provide a unique experience for their customers outside their restaurant doors.
The pandemic has taken a massive toll on the restaurant industry — but one thing we know for sure is that our industry can roll with the punches and adapt. Some of these trends are essential for the present state of the industry, but as we move past the pandemic and into a new normal, the emphasis on restaurant technology and off-premises options will allow restaurants to expand their reach and create more avenues of income, which will serve as the rainbow at the end of this storm.