Industry Insights

Current Restaurant Industry Trends

By: Thelma Collado
Feb 24, 2021 • 6 min read

Current Restaurant Industry Trends

As we continue transitioning into 2021, there are many things that look a lot different than they did last year. Dining out and enjoy a restaurant-quality meal isn’t what it used to be. Businesses have had to get creative when coming up with new and innovative ideas to safely serve clients. From self-serving restaurants becoming the new normal to restaurants choosing to implement delivery into their array of services, this article explores current restaurant industry trends you should know about.

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Food Delivery and Online Ordering

Amidst the pandemic and the rise in technological advancements, the trend of ordering meals and having them delivered straight to your home has skyrocketed in the past year! Mobile apps such as DoorDash, Uber Eats, and Grubhub have become very popular. These platforms provide convenience to their customers, as they can now order takeout from virtually any eatery. Several restaurants have caught on to this and have partnered up with these platforms, too. Others have opted to add the option of direct delivery straight from the restaurant itself.

It’s no secret that people value their time. As we have grown to be more conscious of how we choose to spend our days, it has resulted in people ordering pre-made meals more often. Some find that the trip to and from a restaurant is too time-consuming. For busy families or those on the go, ordering online is the fastest option. Others simply enjoy the convenience of eating at home. This is especially true for those who are high-risk, as at-home dining is a safer option.

Social Media

We have reached a point where social media has pervaded millions of users’ lives and has become one of the fastest methods of connecting with and learning about others. Restaurants have also hopped on this trend! By promoting their business online, they are able to gain more customers and boost brand awareness. This has become a popular marketing method for many in the restaurant industry.

Not only does this method allow people to be introduced to new or long-standing restaurants, but it serves as a quick method of presenting and updating customers on the latest and greatest. It has never been easier to make announcements such as deals, menu changes, and more. Many restaurants even encourage users to post pictures of food they ordered and to tag them in it!

Setting up a social media account is super simple. Taking advantage of these opportunities means being able to let potential customers know about who you are, what you provide, and how you can give them a dining experience that is unlike any other!

rectangular beige wooden tables and chair

Healthier Alternatives

As the food industry grows, so do people’s expectations for what they provide to the public. Society has become more health-conscious over time. Customers are now valuing meals that are both delicious and nutritious. While fast-food restaurants are not the obvious choice for making health-conscious decisions regarding your diet, other restaurants have been implementing some changes to accommodate this growing demand.

Calorie counts have been added alongside the dishes listed in menus, and multiple restaurant chains are including gluten-free and low sodium options. Another small but equally important change is removing artificial colors, flavors, and MSG from foods. Different serving sizes have also grown in popularity, as well as being able to customize your dishes to your liking. Many local restaurants have prioritized this mission of serving food that is equally tasty as it is healthy. They do so by providing a wider range of nourishing meals for their customers!

Implementation of Technology

People value convenience. And what could be more convenient than technology? New platforms have made their way into the food industry. Touchscreen terminals allow people to order their meals exactly how they want them the moment they’re seated at their table. This machine allows staff to receive those orders without any fuss or confusion.

Another new piece of technology that has been implemented is Order & Pay. This system has grown in popularity by providing customers the ability to pay for their meals through their mobile devices. Kitchen display screens have begun to replace the usual method of printed tickets. They show each order in an accessible, easy-to-read manner. Plus, it doesn’t use up paper!

Restaurants value their patrons’ time and want to create a unique and enjoyable experience for them while also making sure that as many people can be served throughout the day. The previously mentioned technology can make that a reality for customers.

man wearing white dress shirt

Preference and Appreciation For Ethnic Food

People are excited to learn more about the meals served by varying cultures and want to expand their horizons when it comes to their dining experiences. This has introduced a new appreciation for cultural restaurants!

These dishes divert from the mainstream meals that people are accustomed to, which is why they have become so sought after. The other reason is that our society has become more open-minded and more willing to leave their comfort zone. Restaurants have been taking advantage of this change and working on bringing in more authentic dishes for people to try!

Vegan and Vegetarian Dishes

Plant-based dishes have become very popular in recent years. People have opted to switch over to vegan or vegetarian diets for health and personal reasons. Being able to provide alternative dishes can create a more inclusive establishment that can reach a wider audience. Some restaurants have chosen to substitute meat in their dishes for plant-based alternatives such as beans and tofu. Others have added vegetarian dishes to their menus or have provided the option for patrons to pick and choose what they want to include in their dish.

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Local Restaurants

Local restaurants are able to provide something that chain restaurants cannot: a change of pace. When it comes to their dining experience, customers want more than just good food and good service. They want something new.

Local restaurants are able to provide a different experience since they’re not tethered to the same pattern that chain restaurants follow. It provides customers with new sights, new experiences, and new flavors to try out! Many local restaurants are centered within a town, city, or otherwise close-knit community. It can give a sense of coziness and exclusiveness. Something they probably wouldn’t feel within a chain restaurant!

Going Green in the Restaurant Industry

Now more than ever, we have become more environmentally conscious and aware of our planet’s state. It is important to be mindful of how we want to leave it for future generations! This knowledge has reflected itself on many restaurants. Establishments are becoming more environmentally conscious by implementing eco-friendly alternatives for utensils and tableware, buying local produce, and using energy-efficient appliances.

Several food establishments have replaced previous styrofoam or plastic take-out bags with biodegradable ones, while others are working to reduce food waste. Whether it’s through prepping only what’s necessary, transforming and using any remaining ingredients that would otherwise be thrown away, or donating leftovers, many establishments are working towards a greener future.

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Self-Service Restaurants

The concept of self-serving isn’t new. But with the events pertaining to COVID-19, self-service has grown in popularity. Customers can browse through a digital menu, pick and choose what dish they want, and can pay for it digitally. All of this can be done without the need to interact with a server or sit down at a table. They can either have their food delivered or pick it up in the restaurant after the chef is done making the order.

This concept allows for a convenience that wasn’t often utilized until the pandemic began to affect many businesses, specifically, the restaurant business. Even so, it has had a lasting effect on the way we view the restaurant industry and the potential it holds.

Simplifying Menus

While it may seem that providing a multitude of menu items could be the key to increasing customer satisfaction, it has actually shown to do the opposite. Having so many options at your disposal can be exhausting, overwhelming, and time-consuming, especially for someone’s first time visiting the restaurant. This process is exhausting for the employees since it means having to learn to prepare all those dishes to provide the customer with the right order. This can lead to mix-ups and require longer waiting periods, which can result in dissatisfied customers.

Having such a large menu also takes a bite out of the restaurant’s overall budget. This is because having to order a larger variety of ingredients gets expensive! More often than not, people are going to pick their usual or familiar dishes while they are dining. This results in certain ingredients not getting used, going to waste, and money going down the drain. Many establishments have noticed this pattern. As a result, they have opted to listless items on their menus to avoid these situations.

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Emphasis on Hygiene in the Restaurant Industry

Ever since the pandemic began, we as a society have grown more conscious about our hygiene and cleanliness. Restaurant employees, who have to handle the food of all kinds of customers on a daily, require the implementation of proper hygienic measures. Many new cleaning policies have been implemented over the last year. For example, tables and chairs are disinfected after every use, chefs and servers need to exercise personal hygiene on a regular basis, and staff must be supplied with masks and gloves during food preparation and food handling.

Food handling and preparation have become a large concern within the context of risking contamination to other employees or any customers. Safety measures have been taken and prioritized in order to keep both groups safe while still providing them with the dining experience they desire.

Keeping the storage units for food regularly cleaned, the equipment functional, and throwing out any ingredients that have gone bad are also important measures that are being taken. These tasks ensure the restaurant’s overall cleanliness and make sure that the customers aren’t consuming old or spoiled food.

What are some of the restaurant industry trends you have been keeping up with recently? Comment down below and let us know! We would love to hear from you.

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