2020 has been a challenging year for the restaurant industry. The coronavirus pandemic’s effects have touched every single restaurant, big and small, forcing restaurant owners to adapt to social distancing guidelines and adopt new business approaches to remain open. As 2020 comes to a close, some believe the industry will return to the way it was; however, the aftershocks of the pandemic are sure to be felt well into 2021. Restaurant trends adopted to survive in 2020 are projected to continue in the coming year, along with new ones geared to make up for the past year’s losses. With January mere weeks away, restaurant owners must consider adopting the following trends to safeguard their business’s success in the new year.
Takeout and Curbside Will Continue
Takeout and curbside were popular additions to many restaurant operations this year to stay afloat. Takeout and curbside allow restaurants to bring in revenue despite lockdowns and dine-in restrictions. They also offer customers convenient and safe options to enjoy their favorite restaurants’ food without dining in—qualities that will make such services stick around in 2021. Customers who have become accustomed to the convenience will expect these services to continue. Additionally, health and safety are likely to continue to weigh on customers’ minds. Takeout and curbside service will give customers hesitant to return to indoor dining, even at a limited capacity, an option to enjoy your food from the comfort of their own home.
In 2021, restaurant owners can drive carryout sales through specials, enticing customers to utilize the service. With tablet POS solutions, operations can be run seamlessly by processing payments curbside. To beef up operations even further, restaurant owners can develop creative ways to package and present to-go meals, making opening the to-go bag an experience. Features such as this will be appreciated by the customer and encourage them to come back.
Online Ordering Will Remain Crucial
As online ordering was already on the rise pre-pandemic, the demand for it will undoubtedly continue into the new year. Like takeout and curbside service, customers are in the habit of placing orders online for convenience and safety purposes. To drive online sales, restaurant owners should adopt a POS system that offers an online ordering integration that is easy for customers and staff to use. Intuitive user experience is crucial. Customers who have difficulty using it won’t be keen to use it again. It also helps to ensure it is accessible and useable both for desktop and mobile devices so that customers have the freedom to order from any device.
Limited-Time Offers and New Menu Items Will Draw Customers
Surviving 2021 will require a lot of creativity on behalf of restaurant owners. You may want to win back customers you may have lost in 2020 as well as attract new ones. Keep customers interested in your business with new menu offerings, such as special entrees or drinks. You can even make these offerings available for a limited time to create a sense of urgency and drive sales. Shift offers, limit menus, and offer unique experiences to attract diners who are hesitant to return to indoor dining or who are on a budget.
Heightened Sit-Down Experiences
Many states are capping dining room capacity at 25% or 50%. These capacity limits make it hard for restaurant owners to turn a hard profit in an industry already running on thin margins. While relying on takeout and curbside helps, these services may not always be enough to make it in 2021. Restaurant owners should consider enhancing the sit-down experience with high-end ingredients, beautiful presentation, expensive drinks, and an air of exclusivity. When they do go out, diners may be looking for and appreciate an unforgettable experience.
Emphasis on Special Events
With the vaccine on the horizon, many restrictions on restaurants will likely lift in 2021. Because of this, restaurant owners need to provide services that will help them flourish. As customers return to normalcy, it’s a good idea for restaurants to offer special events hosting, such as small wedding parties, romantic date nights, birthdays, and family reunions. Once a vaccine comes or restrictions are lifted, the general population will be more eager than ever to reunite with families and friends. Restaurateurs can provide the perfect venue for such efforts.
Outdoor dining is not a new phenomenon. However, it has become critical in restaurants’ survival in 2020. In warmer states and when the weather warms in cooler states, outdoor dining will continue to be essential in 2021. With indoor dining capped at 25%-50%, outdoor dining allows restaurants to retain a sense of full capacity and maximize sales. Even if capacity restrictions are lifted in 2021, outdoor dining will help make up for past losses. Restaurateurs should be creative with the experiences they deliver outdoors, enticing customers to return.
Ghost Kitchens will Flourish
Ghost kitchens, while a relatively lowkey trend in 2020, will likely flourish in 2021. As the concept becomes more popular, many restaurateurs are taking advantage of ghost kitchen operations. A restaurant without a dining space that focuses specifically on online orders and delivery, ghost kitchens are viable options for restaurateurs looking to start their own business or supplement their existing one in 2021. Ghost kitchens are a budget-friendly option as restaurateurs don’t need a large, impressive storefront to advertise their brand. Restaurateurs can have their pick of pop-up kitchens, which are an extension of already-existing restaurants, share kitchens, which are ghost kitchen spaces owned by multiple entrepreneurs, or kitchen pods, small shipping containers with outfitted kitchens.
2021 will be here before you know it. Restaurateurs should think hard about leveraging these trends to retain customers and keep their doors open in 2021. Interested in resources that will help your business flourish in the new year? Contact our team of experts at NCC and plan for success today.