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.
Bilanol // Shutterstock
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.
Renata Ty // Shutterstock
Street and sidewalk restaurants
After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that outdoors — and in well-ventilated areas — COVID-19 virus particles were less likely to spread, restaurants offered outdoor seating, often blocking table space on sidewalks, curbs, and the street. As of September 2021, 72% of full-service restaurants and 57% of limited-service restaurants said they offer alfresco dining via a patio, patio, or sidewalk, according to the National Restaurant Association.
Street restaurants became very successful while increasing the number of tables and business for restaurants, and many continue to offer outdoor seating year-round. New York City, for example, has created a permanent restaurant program that allows businesses to use sidewalk and curb space indefinitely.
Heidi Besen // Shutterstock
Although some restaurants saw more sales through email marketing and street food, many businesses still suffered from staff shortages. In 2020, over 2.5 million hospitality jobs disappeared and an estimated 110,000 businesses closed their doors permanently.
Since then, despite the number of jobs available in the market, many restaurants never seemed to recover. As of June 2022, there were more than 1.3 million vacancies in the accommodation and hospitality sector, which includes jobs in food service and hospitality. In July, the same sector hired about 74,000 people, but the workforce is still clearly declining.
Gorodenkoff // Shutterstock
Although meal delivery services have boomed during the pandemic – and offered greater convenience for customers who would rather stay safe at home – demand for home deliveries has waned somewhat. One reason is the rising cost of inflation, which makes meal delivery expensive compared to grocery shopping or ordering directly from a restaurant. Additionally, as vaccines lower COVID-19 death rates and social distancing guidelines are relaxed, guests are returning to in-person dining, resulting in reduced usage of third-party services like DoorDash, Uber Eats, and Grubhub.
ESB Professional // Shutterstock
Inflation is also driving the rising cost of food in restaurants – as of July 2022, the cost of eating out increased by about 7.6% from July 2021 rates. Staff shortages, supply chain problems and even the Russian invasion of Ukraine have been loud the New York Times led to price increases in numerous restaurants in the United States.
Some of the foods with rising prices over the past year are beef, pork, scallops and wine. Staples like cooking oil and flour have also taken a hit – prices for rapeseed oil alone are up 159%. With prices skyrocketing, restaurants have no choice but to pass these increases on to their diners, resulting in a much higher price at the end of the meal.
This story originally appeared on Task and was produced and
distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.
This story was written by Stacker and has been re-released under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license.
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