Emerging Restaurant Trends in 2020

Trends Restaurant Owners Should Be Aware of

Woman with mask dining out at a restaurant

Without exaggeration, it’s never been harder to predict new restaurant trends. The pandemic has rocked the restaurant industry, and 2020 is shaping up to be a reactive year for restauranteurs compared with recent decades full of strategy and promise. 

However, there are some restaurant dining and technology trends that are starting to emerge halfway through the year that cannot be ignored. 

These trends provide opportunities that restaurant owners can seize to maximize their profits in both the short and long terms. Have a read through our list of new restaurant trends in 2020.

Space Reduction

This trend was years in the making, so it is unfair to accredit it to Covid-19. For years, restaurants in densely populated areas have been moving towards models that mirror the QSR (quick-service restaurant experience). 

In previous years, with lease prices outpacing profits, many restaurants have been forced to rethink their dining room spaces and focus on reducing their seating in favor of takeout and delivery options.

In a city like New York, the average cost of rent for a restaurant is between $150 and $400 per square foot, depending on location. Combined with the growing minimum wage and employee benefit costs, it is becoming harder to justify the costs of a large dining room.

And then there’s food delivery. The proliferation of food delivery apps like UberEats, Seamless, and Postmates had reduced the number of walk-in patrons when staying in and binging Netflix had become the norm.

Man watching netflix while ordering takeout

So, even before the pandemic hit at the start of 2020, many restaurant owners began considering reducing their spaces in favor of layouts that promoted quick-serve foods for takeout and delivery.

With Covid-19, many restaurants were forced to close or reduce their capacity to anywhere between 25% to 50% depending on their state’s policies. This capacity reduction combined with new bylaws around outdoor dining (again, looking at New York City, many restaurants have moved their dining rooms to sidewalk patios) has sped up the trend of reducing spaces permanently.

After all, it is becoming harder to justify a large restaurant’s cost if the majority of the dining room sits empty for the foreseeable future.

Everything is Going Digital

While downloading nutrients into your diners’ bellies is still a futuristic proposition, everything else has been moving into the digital sphere where data is king, and opportunities to profit are increasing. As you may already know, updated restaurant technology is a requirement of the present and not just a dream of the future.

Restaurant business owners have been looking at creating an omnichannel experience for their patrons by integrating their menus, marketing, websites, and PoS systems into one large ecosystem rather than a collection of platforms without any connectivity.

To catch up with restaurant trends in 2020, you need to interpret data

Wise restaurateurs can now add the title data analyst to their long list of credentials, as the story that their client data tells does require a bit of Shelockholmsing.

Programmatic Advertising

Programmatic advertising has yet to catch on in the restaurant industry in a meaningful way, but there have been some creative examples of larger chains directing their marketing efforts towards digital advertising via artificial intelligence.

Programmatic advertising is a restaurant trend in 2020 that is rising fast

Through programmatic advertising, restaurant brands can “serve” ads to a specific audience within a millisecond based on a collection of relevant data points. In short, with a little bit of help for a programmatic advertising vendor, you can make sure that your ideal client will see an advertisement for your restaurant at the right time.

Big data can yield big profits. Burger King famously used the location services of people who downloaded their official app to offer a 1 cent Whopper deal if users happened to be within 600 feet of a McDonald’s franchise. Their phones would ding with a notification offering a digital coupon and directions to the nearest Burger King location.

The free media exposure for the stunt alone was well worth the investment in the marketing campaign, and things of this caliber no longer require proprietary software such as the app. All business owners need is to contact a programmatic advertising partner to get started.

Automating the Kitchen

Of course, not everyone is thinking about big picture marketing campaigns right now, and there are some other ways that restaurants have been optimizing their operations and diner experiences.

If you are using a printed ticket system in your restaurant, then listen up! We’re talking about the kitchen display system (or KDS for short).

Restaurant KDS system is getting boosted as a restaurant trend in 2020
Source: Hospitality Hotline

Owners have been turning to kitchen display systems to optimize their restaurants to run as efficiently as possible. A KDS improves the communication issues that plague the front and back of house staff by instantly sending orders to the kitchen as they are entered and to the appropriate station.

Food preppers and chefs love the system for its ease of use and ability to cycle through different displays. Furthermore, the systems improve meal pacing by showing when different dishes need to be prepared, cooked, plated – you name it. So, rather than checking orders ticket by ticket, a screen can show the total number of a specific dish that needs to be made, making it easier to prepare all together and the collected data in the platform will inform restaurant owners where there are delays in preparation and room for improvement.

And, naturally, there is the added benefit of going paperless and reducing the waste your restaurant produces which has remained in an inclining restaurant trend in 2020.

Restaurant Trends in 2020 Shaped by Covid-19

With the pandemic showing no signs of slowing in the US, reactive measures that restaurant owners were forced to take have become the new normal, at least for the foreseeable future. 

These technicalities include enhanced cleaning procedures, an abundance of sanitizing stations, and the removal of unnecessary high touch surfaces. That means everything from keeping doors open to reduce contact with handles and doing away with menus completely.

QR codes are fast becoming a norm for restaurants and customers alike, with both parties feeling more comfortable with clients scanning the codes with their personal devices with links that take them to an updated menu.

Woman relaxing in restaurant during covid-19. Restaurant trends in 2020 still need to focus on dine-in because customers look for a way to get out safely

Dining outdoors is another trend that is tough for restaurants to ignore. Depending on your location and local bylaws, it is worthwhile to look into designating a space in front of your restaurant (or in the back) for some socially distanced al fresco eating. As diners are getting stir crazy in their apartments, they are expecting to find some solace at cafes and restaurants; outdoor seating provides an opportunity to get out and dine in safer environments than enclosed dining rooms.

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