With all the resources available online, it’s fairly easy to forecast upcoming restaurant trends for the next year.
Enter 2020 and…well, you get the point.
In this post, we highlight some restaurant industry trends that are here to stay in 2021 and that have been catalyzed by the pandemic. Stick around till you reach the bottom of the page where we share our favorite restaurant adaptions brought on by the pandemic itself. Their genius!
How many of these are you thinking about applying to your own restaurant if you haven’t already?
Ghost Kitchens are Coming to Life
While ChowEasy advocates supporting restaurants through dine-in and caters to foodies who live for the dine-in experience, delivery is important. Delivery has soared so much in popularity that “ghost kitchens” have been given new life.
The use of ghost kitchens is a revolutionary trend in the restaurant delivery scene. Not to be mistaken with virtual kitchens, ghost kitchens do not require a brick-and-mortar location. Kitchen space is rented from landlords from facilities like Kitchen United or Cloud Kitchens. The space is then “occupied” by restaurant brands and orders are sent out from the kitchen. Customers order from 3rd-party apps like DoorDash and Grubhub.
Virtual kitchens usually consist of an exclusive delivery-only menu created by existing restaurants to expand their market.
Can existing restaurants use ghost kitchens? While the answer is yes, it depends. Ghost kitchens are still a new concept and is widely considered an unknown territory. It has been suggested that existing restaurants can greatly benefit but only if they have achieved stellar brand awareness.
Automation is Simplifying Lives
The restaurant industry, in general, is a bit slower to adopt technological advances compared to many industries. The benefits of automation to business operations are well understood however. Automation often allows more efficient operations and reduced costs over time.
Though we’d love to talk about robot servers, for practicality, we’ll just mention simpler modes of automation being widely used by restaurants:
Some higher-end casual restaurants are still booking reservations. With limited indoor seating available, it can be a hassle to manage restaurant capacity.
Having reservations taken care of for you is sure to free up some time to focus on more urgent matters. There are many online booking services (i.e EatApp) that allow diners to reserve tables in real-time. Reduce phone call volume by automating reservations!
This one has been a game changer for countless restaurants during the pandemic. There are many apps and services that enable diners to order online and have the order sent directly to the restaurant’s POS system.
If you’re an avid reader of our blog, you probably know that we mention kiosks numerous times. Kiosks are a great way to automate orders in restaurants and kill waiting lines. Self-serve kiosks have been shown to increase upselling up to 47%.
With social distancing measures in effect, kiosks may help fast casual restaurants speed up traffic.
Read more about the benefits of kiosks in our blog post titled Increase Restaurant Sales by Taking Control in 2021.
Chatbots are underused by restaurants but the restaurants that have been using them have seen dramatic increases in efficiency.
Chatbots send automated messages to customer inquiries. They can answer general questions like open/close times, delivery/takeout options, and much more. Can you imagine how much time you will free up by having all mundane questions answered for you?
The power of Chatbots doesn’t stop there however. Restaurants have unlimited freedom with custom automated responses and can set them up practically anywhere online. Automated messages can be applied in emails, Facebook messages, texts, phone calls, and more.
Some chatbots can even recognize your most loyal customers and automatically send promos via text, email, or Facebook message.
Zero Waste Kitchens are Hip
By becoming a zero-waste kitchen, you not only attract diners that care about reducing greenhouse emissions, you also can save $7 for every $1 invested.
There are many services that allow restaurants to make better forecasts on food supply and sell their soon-to-be-expired food. Finding every opportunity to save is important in these times and will increase your bottom line significantly in the long-run.
Learn more about zero-waste technology available to all restaurants.
Our Favorite Restaurant Trends Born From the Pandemic
While the trends above were rising even before the pandemic, a few trends were directly started by it. Here are the ones that stood out to us the most:
Some restaurants have adapted by opening up a food truck station in their parking lot. This was a smart move for numerous reasons.
Food trucks don’t have the same restrictions as dine-in spaces, creating a perfectly valid “loophole.” As people travel to and from work, they could easily spot the food truck for a quick bite.
Another creative adaption made by restaurants world wide are cook-it-yourself kits. Got a secret ingredient or special way of preparing pasta that can’t be replicated? Cook-it-yourself kits have had mass appeal for those who want to have a homemade meal from the restaurants they love.
Perhaps one of the most important trend to arise from the pandemic are contactless menus. Many restaurants now have QR codes that can be scanned via smartphone to pull up a digital menu.
Looking for a fun way to attract more dine-in customers? ChowEasy is a free app dedicated to helping restaurants get new, quality customers from the local area. Attract passionate foodies with promos that run on your schedule and on your terms with your restaurant name revealed only to committed diners. No upfront costs or commitments! Sign up here.