Restaurant Industry News and Trends

New restaurant concepts like the one photographed where a waiter is speaking to a couple with menus in their hands, is one facet of the latest restaurant industry news and trends.

In 2020, no one escaped the effect of the Coronavirus, but the restaurant industry was hit especially hard. With businesses forced to close doors in the name of public safety, many restaurant workers lost jobs, revenue plummeted and businesses were forced to adapt in order to continue to feed their communities. As the pandemic wears on, there is some positive restaurant industry news as businesses change their model and receive injections of cash from investors and government relief packages. Learn more about how the industry has been affected by COVID-19 and what you can expect from upcoming restaurant industry news as businesses continue to try to stay afloat and recover from unprecedented challenges.

The Impact of COVID-19 on the Restaurant Industry

With people prohibited from leaving their homes except for essential activities, restaurants were immediately hit hard. From March, when state and local governments first started handing out mandates, to the end of 2020, the restaurant industry lost around $240 billion in revenue. This includes significant reductions in sales at food and bar adjacent businesses in the lodging, arts, healthcare, retail and education sectors. 

Of course, these shutdowns led to employee layoffs and record unemployment numbers. In fact, the restaurant industry accounted for one out of every fours jobs lost. In April, which was the peak of mandatory closures, nearly 8 million bar and restaurant employees were either furloughed or laid off. Now that some restrictions have been lifted, employment numbers have improved, but they are still about 2.5 million below pre-COVID estimates.

Faced with these dismal numbers and an uncertain future, many establishments chose to quickly close their doors rather than struggle. According to the National Restaurant Association, 110,000 bars and restaurants had either temporarily or permanently closed their doors by December of 2020. For those who were able to hang on, more relief may be on the way. 

Congress is taking decisive steps to provide the restaurant industry with relief funding that will help keep businesses open and employees on the payroll. Earlier this month, the RESTAURANTS Act was reintroduced and calls for $120 billion to be allocated to the industry. Initial votes have shown bipartisan support for the resolution. The final vote on the amendment is scheduled for the week of February 22, 2021 and expected to pass without incident. 

The Future of the Restaurant Industry

Other positive restaurant industry news speaks to the creativity and resilience of bars and restaurants. When faced with a changing business landscape, many were able to leverage their skills and resources to transform into grocers, drive-throughs and even movie theaters. Owners, chefs and employees worked hard to be able to continue to feed their communities and help those who are most vulnerable. Looking toward the future, restaurants will continue to be more nimble, scalable and adaptable in order to better weather challenges and move the industry forward.

Restaurant Industry News: Emerging Trends

There have been some overarching restaurant trends that have emerged and new models that have proven successful during the pandemic and may continue well into the future. Here is some restaurant industry news worth following:

Virtual Restaurants

These are also commonly referred to as ghost kitchens and only offer delivery and carry-out orders. This model reduces costs associated with rent and hospitality and focuses on the food. Virtual restaurants can use third-party apps to connect with customers and/or rely on in-house delivery drivers.

More Technology 

Technology is being used to improve health and safety by limiting interactions. QR codes and digital menus have replaced traditional menus and handheld devices, self-service kiosks and other portable devices allow guests to submit orders and pay at the table without any wait time. 

Focus on Health

With a global pandemic still raging, consumers are worried about their health and especially concerned about gut health. Restaurants are offering more options that are gluten-free and include good bacteria and probiotics to accommodate health-conscious consumers. 

Streamlined Menus

Simple menus allow customers to make decisions faster and ease the burden on restaurants. As a result, businesses can improve efficiency, reduce wait times, ensure product quality and save on labor and inventory. It is important to evaluate the value of each dish to establish a lean yet profitable menu. About 63% of restaurants report cutting back on their menu and the majority of these plan to continue with this model for the foreseeable future.

Sustainability

Activists have long been pushing to reduce waste in bars and restaurants. In 2019, the industry got on board in a major way and there was a comprehensive effort to eliminate the use of plastic straws and bags. Customers can expect to continue to see more environmentally friendly packaging, especially paper straws and cardboard carry-out boxes.

Outdoor Dining

For many the ability to offer outdoor dining has been a key factor in the ability to stay open. Surveys show that 62% of fine dining and 56% of casual establishments have been investing time, money and space to expand outdoor seating. Cities have been helping by closing off sections of streets and allowing seating on sidewalks and parking lots. 

Online Ordering and Delivery

While indoor dining isn’t totally a thing of the past, many customers still feel more comfortable ordering out and eating at home. Third party delivery services are making this easier than ever. Sixdots, DoorDash, Grubhub, Postmates, Uber Eats, Delivery Dudes, Bite Squad and other apps allow consumers to order from their favorite restaurants and enjoy contactless delivery. 

Restaurants can also utilize in-house ordering and use internal employees to handle delivery. This allows them to keep all of the profits. Both methods can be integrated with existing POS systems to gain valuable insights on payments, sales, popular orders and other customer preferences.

Perhaps the best restaurant industry news is that 2021 is expected to be a year of significant growth. As the vaccine continues to be administered and more people feel safe venturing out, restaurants are forecasted to enjoy double digit growth. Numbers may exceed expectations as people show their enthusiasm for a little normalcy after over a year of restrictions.    

FAQs

Are restaurants a dying industry?

While the restaurant industry was hit hard by the pandemic, the industry is by no means a dying breed. Consumers still consider dining out an important part of their lifestyle and restaurants are determined to continue to feed their communities. Help from investors and government relief packages have provided much needed aid. Another significant package is expected to pass Congress during the week of February 22, 2021, and offer additional funds to restaurants. 

Are restaurant sales down? 

Yes, from March till the end of 2020, it is estimated that the industry lost $240 billion in sales.

What are the trends in the restaurant industry?

In response to new challenges, many restaurant industry trends have emerged, including: virtual restaurants, a greater reliance on technology, health conscious and streamlined menus, sustainability, outdoor dining and online ordering and delivery.

What is the future of the food service industry?

With an expected relief package of $120 billion and the continued rollout of the vaccine, the future of the food service industry looks bright. The pandemic has also taught business a lot about how to remain agile and utilize technology, so expect to see some of their newly adopted practices continue well past the pandemic.

Is the restaurant industry growing?

Yes, as restrictions are lifted and more people get the vaccine, the industry is growing. In fact, according to recent restaurant industry news, experts are predicting double-digit growth for 2021.

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