2020 has been a year like no other. And the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated a number of 2020 restaurant trends that are now providing immense challenges – but also tremendous opportunities – for the industry.
In its annual State of the Industry report, the leading analyst, Upserve, sets out some of the key ones to be aware of as we look forward to a brighter 2021.
And most interesting, perhaps, is its detailed look at the creative ways in which some businesses have used the crisis to dramatically increase their profits.
For obvious reasons, the popularity of online ordering and curbside pick-up has surged during the pandemic. And now that customers have discovered the ease, convenience – and, of course, safety – offered by contactless online ordering, it’s highly likely that this trend is here to stay.
But the implications for restaurants go far beyond the provision of an online ordering service through a POS system.
It will be now more than ever important to have a strong online presence, including a customer-friendly website with digital menus that allow contactless ordering both from tables and remotely.
And to survive and prosper in the post-COVID world, restaurants will also need to boost their online presence by making full use of social media platforms and online loyalty programs.
Bucking the longer-term trend towards environmentally conscious and wellness menu options, 2020 has seen a reversion to old-fashioned comfort foods and simpler menus.
This is partly because of changes in customer demands driven by the extraordinary emotional and financial stresses of the year. But simpler menus are also more cost-effective for restaurants to produce – with corresponding price benefits for diners. And they lend themselves much better to the maintenance of food quality in delivery and curbside pick-up offers.
A related menu trend has been the popularity of bigger ticket items, such as steaks, seafood, and roasts, among in-house diners.
Comfort foods, yes, but also ones that are best enjoyed when served fresh to the table, and likely to be less suited to carry out services. Customers ordering these items are likely to be seeking a sense of occasion, as well as good food, because they are probably eating out less frequently during the pandemic.
That said, in these financially straitened times, they are also placing even greater importance on value for money. And fixed-price menus have become increasingly popular.
All sectors of the restaurant industry experienced a massive drop in revenues with the onset of the pandemic in March. And the industry as a whole is projected to lose a staggering $240 billion by the end of the year.
But the pain has not been evenly distributed.
Fine dining restaurants and bars, which function as social gathering venues, were particularly badly affected as customers turned to delivery and curbside pick-up options. Restaurants in the fast-casual sector, on the other hand, which already had a strong carry-out offering, have found it much easier to develop this element of their businesses – though it has been nowhere near enough to compensate for their overall losses.
But for all the gloom that has surrounded the economy in 2020, there have been restaurants in all sectors of the industry that have managed to increase their revenues – some by 100% and even more.
Every case is unique, but for all of them the key to their success has been a determination to diversify and add new streams of revenue.
It might mean new menu offerings, different opening hours, enhanced social media outreach, or partnering with neighboring businesses to provide a comprehensive to-go service. The key, always, is creative thinking and working out the best way to meet customers’ needs in these extraordinary times.
In the full Upserve report you’ll find case studies and interviews with some of the outstanding performers – as well as detailed information and analysis of all restaurant trends that have impacted the business this year.
You can download a free copy of the report right here.