5 Restaurant Industry Trends to Consider for 2021 and Beyond

In 2020, new trends appeared across all industries, most notably throughout the restaurant sector. Lockdowns, capacity limits, social distancing guidelines, alcohol restrictions, and more plagued restaurateurs around the country. This forced restaurant owners to get creative and adopt new business strategies, such as online ordering and contactless payments. Faced with the coronavirus pandemic with no end in sight, restaurant owners had two choices: embrace these trends or risk the failure of their business. Those who couldn’t or refused to adapt to the new COVID-19 environment experienced heavy losses and even shutdowns.

This year, as the pandemic remains a serious concern, restaurant industry trends adopted in 2020 will continue. Not only do these trends help restauranteurs maneuver a pandemic-stricken world, but they also smooth operations and generate additional revenue, much-needed benefits after almost a year of COVID-19. Read on to discover the five restaurant industry trends for 2021 and beyond.

Online Ordering

Already a popular trend before the pandemic struck, online ordering became essential for quarantining consumers who craved their favorite restaurant’s food. Before restrictions lifted and still in some cases today, online ordering was the only way restaurants could receive orders. Those who exclusively took orders over the phone migrated to online ordering to streamline the ordering process and free up staff. This way, staff no longer had to spend time taking orders over the phone and could help with sanitization efforts or assist limited staff in the kitchen.

It goes without saying that in 2021, online ordering is here to stay. Customers can’t get enough of the convenience and ease of ordering on their phones or computers and, depending on the restaurant, having it delivered right to their door. Beyond the pandemic, online ordering will work to streamline restaurant operations by giving customers full control over their order, minimizing order errors, and speeding up the ordering process. Additionally, when at maximum capacity, customers who can’t reserve a table can instead order online, generating additional revenue that would have been lost without the option of online ordering.

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Contactless Payments

Contactless, mobile, and pay-at-table payment technologies were and continue to be heavily leveraged tools to reduce the spread of harmful pathogens. Transactions including cash and card have dwindled in recent months due to the direct contact they require. As consumers continue to be aware of their health and safety this year, contactless payment options will remain crucial.

While contactless payments eliminate direct contact, they also allow for a speedier checkout experience, leading to higher customer satisfaction and table turnover. As eWallets becomes more and more popular among younger generations, it is wise for restaurateurs to consider accommodating these payment options to keep customers safe and improve the customer experience as a whole.

Outdoor Dining

Much like online ordering, outdoor dining was an absolute essential amid indoor dining restrictions in 2020. When restaurants were forced to operate at 25% or even 50% capacity, outdoor dining areas allowed them to make up the difference and act as though they were operating at 100% capacity. Outdoor dining was also a popular option among customers who were hesitant to return to indoor dining.

As the pandemic continues into 2021, restaurants should plan for the unexpected and consider offering outdoor dining areas in the event that restrictions return or worsen. Pandemic or not, outdoor dining is an excellent way to maximize the number of customers you can serve at one time. When restaurant capacity returns to 100%, restaurants with outdoor dining space can enjoy the additional revenue from the expanded seating.

Ghost Kitchens

With the shift of customer behavior towards online ordering and delivery, restaurateurs may want to consider ghost kitchen concepts for their business. As a dining space that focuses solely on fulfilling online orders for delivery, ghost kitchens are becoming more and more popular because of their budget-friendly nature. Ghost kitchens feature low overhead costs as there is no need for basics such as chairs, tables, wait staff, or a fancy storefront.

Since ghost kitchens don’t need to advertise themselves with a fancy storefront, they can be situated anywhere, allowing for reduced rent in lowkey locations. In addition to reduced overhead costs and rent, ghost kitchens also feature reduced tech costs. They usually have companies provide all facilities and technology necessary for operations and even share their space with other business owners. As online ordering and delivery increase in demand, ghost kitchens may be the smarter option for restauranteurs looking to maximize profits in 2021.

Indoor Seating Arrangements

Indoor seating arrangements were heavily scrutinized in 2020 as social distancing guidelines were enforced. Strategies to maintain distance between customers included situating tables six feet apart, dividing parties with plastic dividers, and the use of masks and gloves by staff members. Some establishments included signage on walls, tables, and floors to guide the flow of traffic and reduce close contact with others.

While social distancing restrictions may lift later this year, the seating arrangement trends adopted to combat the spread of COVID-19 can also work to improve restaurant operations post-pandemic. Signage guiding traffic throughout your restaurant will reduce congestion during peak hours, allowing staff to navigate the dining room with speed and ease. Signage will also help customers when they arrive, informing them to stay in the waiting room or seat themselves to keep traffic flowing through your front doors.

As the COVID-19 vaccine rolls out throughout 2021, many restaurant operations may return to normal; however, the trends introduced by the pandemic will remain ingrained in the restaurant industry. This year can look a lot different from 2020 for restaurant owners as long as they stay up-to-date with these crucial restaurant trends. These trends will safeguard against future lockdowns, capacity limits, and restrictions and improve operations post-pandemic, allowing for streamlined operations and heightened customer satisfaction.

Are you ready to set yourself up for success in 2021? CTSG, LLC and Focus POS can provide the POS solutions you need to get started. For more information, contact us today at (540) 891-0700.