COVID-19 has changed the way we eat out – here are the trends that will continue

Restaurants have had to make major adjustments as dining rooms around the world were forced to close due to COVID-19. Between delivery services and sophisticated outdoor seating, businesses were getting creative to encourage customers to order — but it still wasn’t enough to keep sales anywhere near pre-pandemic levels. The US restaurant industry made about $240 billion less than expected in sales in 2020, and some industry experts say restaurants will never recover from the pandemic.

The task group gathered facts and statistics about trends in the restaurant industry since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic from industry experts, government data and news sources to examine which trends remain.

While the restaurant industry was undergoing major changes, the pandemic ended up being a catalyst for the industry. It sparked trends that have helped some restaurants thrive and forced many to make operational changes that might not have been considered before. However, not all restaurant trends are viewed positively by COVID-19, and many businesses have continued to face significant setbacks in recent years. Here are some examples of creative changes that have emerged from the pandemic – with many trends that may have changed the way we eat out.

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To reduce the spread of COVID-19 on surfaces, many restaurants have decided to abandon the use of physical menus and instead rely on QR code menus. Guests scan a barcode with their phone and this takes them to a website where the menu is easy to navigate.

According to a 2021 National Restaurant Association biannual State of the Industry survey, 57% of consumers viewed and ordered from a restaurant’s online menu during the pandemic. Additionally, The New York Times reported that half of all full-service restaurants have implemented QR code menus since the pandemic began, according to another association survey.

While this made it easier for diners to minimize their contact, it also eliminated the time staff spent sanitizing menus or printing new ones. It also reduced the amount of waste produced by the restaurant, especially when the restaurant frequently changed menu options. It’s even proven to be a time saver; Some restaurants offer guests the option to pay directly on their phone instead of waiting for the waiter, resulting in fewer touchpoints and less risk of virus spread.

QR codes also provide restaurants with an easy way to track consumer data, allowing businesses to build a database of customer history and contact information to amplify their email marketing efforts and promote loyalty programs.

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