After 2020, there’s no question that everyone in the restaurant industry is looking for something solid on which to plan for the immediate future – and the stakes have never been higher. According to the National Restaurant Association,
- Restaurants are likely to sustain more than $240 billion in lost sales by the end of 2020.
- About 100,000 restaurants have either permanently closed or are closed for the long term, but the true number won’t be known until government statistics are released in the months ahead.
Further, the brunt of these closures are expected to be borne by smaller independent businesses. So how can you increase your chances of surviving another tough year? Consider how your business can implement any of the following eight trends that are likely to make or break your success in 2021.
No-Contact Meal Service
You’ve likely already implemented some version of this in your restaurant, but you’ll likely need to continue it throughout 2021. Even when restaurants are able to reopen fully, the public will have acclimated to a different reality: some will no longer be comfortable in crowded spaces, and others will have learned they prefer the convenience of expanded delivery and takeout options. You may want to expand your delivery area and/or join a food delivery service. If you haven’t perfected your curbside delivery operation, it’s past time to do so.
The restaurant industry has been recently invigorated by pop-up, or temporary, locations that have often coalesced around a specific idea or local event and are publicized through social media. They’ve proven ideal during the pandemic due to their low overhead and minimal food waste. Examples include locations that have rethought their menus to be more accessible during the pandemic, such as switching from gourmet dinners to a takeout breakfast menu.
Pop-ups that succeed in 2021 will find ways to maximize available locations and resources while putting some fun back into a social scene that can desperately use it. An example is turning hotel rooms into pop-up restaurants accommodating small groups; orders are placed over the phone, diners never leave their hotel room, and they can even stay overnight for an additional fee.
Emphasis On Healthy Fare
Does your menu include phrases like “immunity building”? In a time when everyone is encouraged to focus on their own health as well as the health of those they love, expect to see more acceptance of food as a direct conduit to better wellness. Diners will likely be interested in fresh ingredients that boost their immunity, reduce stress and improve overall health, among other benefits.
Travel Via Cuisine
Chances are good that travel will still be problematic in 2021. What better way to stimulate the imagination and spirit of adventure than with more diverse cuisine? Consider the addition of international comfort foods like street fare or breakfast items that tell a story that’s relevant to your town or restaurant.
2021 could be a great time to experiment with the retail market beyond your dining room. Is your brand known for a killer barbecue sauce or margarita mix? Since you’re likely already offering takeout and delivery, consider testing some uncomplicated, cost-effective retail items. No one’s saying you have to be Cracker Barrel or Bubba Gump, but providing additional options for your clientele may pay off past 2021.
Embrace the Great Outdoors
Since the requirement to socially distance indoor spaces, many restaurants have rediscovered al fresco dining – and so have their patrons. For instance, according to the New York Times, the online booking service OpenTable has reported a tenfold increase in outdoor seating compared with a year ago. The increase has been facilitated by local governments that have waived fees and expedited application processing. If this isn’t something you’ve considered, even a few tables outside can make a difference in the spring and summer months when people will be craving the outdoors.
The most important thing a restaurant can show its clientele right now is its commitment to both public health and flexibility, and technology makes this much easier. Examples include online reservation systems and mobile or online ordering and payment systems.
But it’s not just about your customers. Implementing a mobile, digital solution for safety checks, audits and training also allows you to maintain the highest levels of safety and flexibility for your employees — even if you’re working with a more distributed staff. A solution like MeazureUp allows your checks and other crucial documentation to be completed from any mobile device with just a few clicks and even a quick photo or two. All actions are recorded instantly and available in real time, fully time-stamped and geolocated for full accountability. This allows your team to quickly and efficiently complete safety and compliance requirements so they can get back to focusing on the food and your customers.
While the restaurant industry has traditionally benchmarked itself on regional or national trends, to survive in 2021, you should read all of the above through the prism of your local experience – considering even the differences between individual locations. It seems that economic recovery will occur in a regional or even local way based on the weather, local lifestyle, tourism, overall effects of the pandemic, etc. Take your cues from your local government and regulatory bodies, as well as other service-based businesses around each location. Work collaboratively if opportunities present themselves; can you do a health-oriented pop-up outside a local gym or juice bar, for instance?
While some gains have been made in 2020, it seems clear that it could take several years for the restaurant industry to fully recover after the pandemic. Restaurants that survive will need to be flexible to accommodate the changing needs and wants of their clientele – everything from superlative cleanliness to the most convenient dining options. From an operational standpoint, adopting cutting-edge technological solutions will also be an important business advantage. A digital, mobile assessment solution like MeazureUp will allow you to optimize your staff time, ensure compliance and accountability, and even quickly and easily roll out new policies and updates to every employee simultaneously. This means your locations will be able to deliver the consistently enjoyable and safe experience that will bring back repeat business and allow your business to survive.
For more information on how MeazureUp can improve your restaurant operations in 2021, contact us today.