The restaurant industry took a hard hit when the COVID-19 pandemic started. It caused massive layoffs and shutdowns all over the world. The community of chefs, servers, owners, and investors recognized the impending damage immediately back in March 2020. The National Restaurant Association reported to the U.S. government that the massive industry might lose at least $225 billion. Their prediction wasn’t far off because, by July, they’ve already lost $120 billion.
The industry is set to have a slow recovery from the dire effects of the pandemic. According to McKinsey & Company, the industry might take about four years to recover fully. They reported that there’s a positive economic return in 2021. But if there’s a recurrence of the virus, then the recovery may be delayed up to four years.
But things are looking up for the restaurant industry, especially so with the recent progress with the vaccine. As budding restaurant investors and owners, it’s your responsibility to make smart decisions about restaurant startup costs. What will help with that is recognizing the trends in the restaurant industry this 2021.
Changing Dining Experience
Ghost kitchens are when restaurants meals to customers but without the dine-in services. Some people might call these virtual clouds or commissary kitchens as well. They rose during the pandemic in response to the stay-at-home order enforced by the government. Restaurants were forced to close off their doors.
But they opened up new ones by offering online services to keep their businesses alive and running. Ghost kitchens, then, rose and became a popular mode of operation for various restaurants.
Of course, many other restaurants still offer dine-in services. They’ve redesigned the interiors. This is to make sure that their diners are still practicing social distancing as they enjoyed their meals. But some restaurants are getting even more creative with their dine-in services. As reported by the Smithsonian Magazine, the drive-in restaurant setup is making a comeback. This way, diners still get to go out of the house for a hot meal. But they’re remaining safe in the confines of their cars as the servers bring their meals to them.
Changing Diet and Food Preferences
Because the COVID-19 pandemic is a medical crisis, it made people conscious of their health. As medical experts have taught us, social distancing and a boosted immune system are our greatest weapons against the threat of the disease. So people started watching their diets.
In fact, the International Food Information Council (IFIC) reported in their 2020 Food & Health Survey that 54 percent of all consumers are conscious of their food’s health components. Their concerns are very valid, especially if we consider how vitamin D deficiency is connected to severe COVID-19 cases.
So restaurants are now in the position of catering to the changing needs of the people. They’re reorienting their menu to showcase the health components that diners can benefit from. And it’s also important to note how many restaurants are also starting to offer plant-based meat. This is to cater to the growing population who are interested in maintaining a plant-based diet.
Digital Marketing and Services
Together with the growth of ghost kitchens is the prominence of ordering food online and having our meals delivered to our doorsteps. Yes, in some areas of the country, the quarantine restrictions have become more lenient. But that doesn’t mean that online ordering will start to decline. Morgan Stanley has predicted that this interest in online ordering will only continue to rise in 2021 and the post-pandemic world.
And because restaurants are coaxing potential diners to order online, they had to improve their digital presence. They did so by revamping their website and ensuring that more people can access them using any device. They also developed mobile apps to make the transaction easier. And they improved their social media presence by producing more engaging content. They also fostered healthy relationships with their market.
As the restaurant industry struggled with the pandemic, the U.S. federal government didn’t stand idly by. They’ve offered loans for restaurant owners and workers who lost their revenue and jobs. The financial aid was offered through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
With such support and perseverance from the restaurant community, the industry can recover from the challenges. And as budding restaurant investors and owners, you, too, can thrive in this industry in the future post-pandemic world. All you’ll need to do is recognize the trends that would keep your diners happy and your restaurant thriving.