4 Pandemic Restaurant Trends That Are Here to Stay

4 Pandemic Restaurant Trends That Are Here to Stay

4 Pandemic Restaurant Trends That Are Here to Stay

In the wake of unprecedented challenges brought on by the pandemic, many restaurants have had to innovate and find ways to survive amidst incredibly challenging circumstances. By adapting their approach according to public health and safety guidelines as well as shifting customer preferences, forward-thinking businesses have managed to stay afloat. From implementing new digital technologies to finding new operational solutions, the pandemic has without a doubt transformed the restaurant industry forever. 

Today, COVID-19 is still among us and as we work to move forward, it’s important to reflect, understand, and learn from the trends and profit models that will shape the restaurant industry for many years to come. In this post, we take a deeper dive into 4 pandemic-induced trends which we believe are here to stay, and how to ensure your business is implementing them.  

1. Emphasis on Safety and Sanitation 

Constant messaging about the importance of hygiene and sanitation in preventing the spread of COVID has led many consumers to be hypervigilant about cleanliness. This is especially important for food businesses, which were already held to an extremely high standard before the pandemic hit. Consider implementing the following practices to reassure customers that your establishment is safe and clean.

  • Sanitation processes. Continue to maintain existing sanitization practices such as wiping down tables between guests, encouraging hand washing & hand sanitizer, etc.

  • Support your employees. As your employees will be the ones dealing with customers directly, it’s important that they are supported. Ensure they have proper training and are aware of how to behave around guests with regards to cleanliness.

2. Enhanced Service Offerings 

Both takeout and delivery have seen sharp increases since the onset of the pandemic and continue to remain popular. In addition to at-home dining, there are also shifts in the way customers want to experience restaurant dining rooms. In order to appeal to your customer base and attract new patrons, you may want to implement the following practices:

  • Take out/curbside pickup. Reconfigure your front-of-house to support improved takeout and curbside pickup workflows. 

  • Delivery. Consider offering food delivery through existing employees or adding a third-party delivery service such as Uber, DoorDash, or GrubHub.

  • DIY home cooking kits. For customers who love to cook but still want to enjoy your food fresh, consider selling DIY home cooking kits with all of the ingredients and instructions required to bring your meals to life.

  • Focus on outdoor dining. Continued prioritization of outdoor dining can help you provide a safe and worry-free dining experience. Plus, many customers already prefer to sit outside in the summer.

3. Customer Familiarity with Restaurant Tech 

This pandemic has made it clear that technology can help open doors and create new opportunities, and the restaurant industry is no exception. With an endless selection of apps, software, and programs at your disposal, you can leverage technology to improve your customer experience and streamline your overall restaurant operation.

  • Contactless. Customers are now used to limited contact. QR code menus and the option to pay from their phone allow them to dine in with very limited interaction. To go a step further, touchless activation sensors in washrooms and handwashing stations can help reduce contact of shared surfaces.

  • Flexibility. With so many options within arms reach, customers demand flexibility. The right point of sale system gives them the ability to pay at the table, at the terminal or even from their phone.

  • Website. With online ordering on the rise, your online presence is more important than ever. Ensure your website works properly, offers online ordering, and can be found easily with the help of restaurant SEO.

  • Loyalty programs. Attract new customers and keep existing ones coming back with gift cards and loyalty programs.

4. Menu Adaption to Pandemic-Induced Preferences 

Beyond the shift in the ways customers experience restaurants, the pandemic and resulting lifestyle changes have contributed to a shift in consumer mindset. COVID has revealed the social and environmental impact of consumer behaviour, highlighting a greater need for more intentional decision-making and an improved sense of community around food. 

In general, people are slowing down, being more conscious about their ecological footprint, and rethinking their approach to consumption. As the end of the pandemic draws closer, many of these changes in food habits and preferences are expected to remain in place. Here’s how to stay up-to-date.

  • Plant-based/vegetarian options. Amongst increasing concerns about the environmental impact and sustainability of food (particularly meat), more people are opting for vegetarian options. Consider offering more dishes without meat, or dishes with meat substitutes, such as soy-based proteins, plant-based meat substitutes, and more.

  • Local ingredients. As more customers aim to reduce their carbon footprint and support their local communities, local produce, dairy, and meat are becoming more popular. If it is feasible, you can source your ingredients from producers in your area, rather than large, multinational distributors.

  • Comfort and nostalgia. With so much uncertainty about the future, many people are turning to comfort foods and dishes that invoke a feeling of nostalgia. Adding menu items such as fried chicken, mac n cheese, chili, stews, and casseroles are just a few of the many dishes you could add to your menu.

  • Nutrition and health foods. Beyond comfort foods, many consumers are more focused on living healthier lifestyles. Dishes that are healthy and nutritious are becoming more popular, and could stand out to health-conscious diners.

  • Alcohol. Many consumers have increased their alcohol consumption during the last year and expect to continue to purchase alcohol at similar levels in the future. A robust drink menu is great for cross selling and can help you increase profits.

Final thoughts 

Restaurant owners have proven their resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic. As we navigate what comes next, it’s clear that customers’ expectations of cleanliness, flexibility, and sustainability are here to stay. Without a willingness to adapt and innovate, restaurants risk falling behind as the post-covid world becomes the new norm.

Want more?  Download our free eBook on post-COVID restaurant operations and learn:

  • How to attract and retain customers

  • How to keep your staff and customers safe

  • Ways to increase profitability

  • How to scale your operation

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