What will we remember most about 2020?
It’s hard to pick from so many monumental events happening all at once. But one thing is for sure: the COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed the restaurant dining experience. As millions of people around the world battle with the pandemic and business disruptions, it has become clear that we need to focus more on each other and healthy living than ever before. Additionally, plant-based and immunity-boosting foods, sanitation and outdoor dining has accelerated to an all time high. Here are three major trends in the restaurant business today.
Individuals have sought products high in vitamins, minerals, and other healthy ingredients to boost their immunity during the pandemic. Nourishment will need to be more nutritious, and food consumption will need to be more functionally driven. Yes, we will still have desserts, and fried foods, but restaurant customers are starting to demand fresh and nutritious immune boosting superfoods and fresh vegetables to keep healthy. The plant-based movement continues to increase in every location and every age range. It has resulted in a huge shift in dining consciousness.
The plant-based movement continues to increase in every location and every age range.
“There’s a definite connection between superfoods and our immune system,” said Tara Gidus Collingwood, founder of Diet Diva, a nutrition consulting company that advises restaurants, senior executives and professional athletes across the U.S. “Over the last ten years, we have experienced a renewed focus on healthy menu options, even in fast food chains, and with the long-lasting impact of the pandemic, there will be an even greater emphasis on this.”
As restaurants and cafés reopen their doors, Healing Butterfly has seen a 62 percent increase in food service orders for plant-based protein. In addition, a study conducted by New Hope reported that consumers are spending more time walking, running, biking, and practicing yoga at home. Only 19 percent of those surveyed said they are not doing any exercise. Restaurants are also seeing that customers today want energy, but they also want to still feel calm. As a result, there has been a sizable uptick in customers shifting from coffee to green tea and turmeric drinks, and restaurants are increasing the number of beverage offerings containing superfoods.
Safety and cleaning have become more stringent in restaurants. With guidelines from the FDA, CDC, and OSHA, face coverings, EPA-registered disinfectants, and gloves are required. Foods like handmade bread will forever have to be made with gloves, and salad bars and buffets will be discontinued for a while. We will see more cleaning stations for staff and patrons, touch-free menus, handwashing stations and temperature scanning areas will pop up everywhere.
More restaurants will move away from handling money which carries a whole host of germs. This also streamlines accounting as customers pay with credit card, Venmo, Apple Pay, and the like. All forms of digital currency and credit cards will be welcome.
Outdoor dining will continue to be in high demand by customers. In the last decade, urban-like mixed use developments have been sprouting up in areas all over the country. The earliest ones, however, go back much further and many are in places with the most temperate of climates making outdoor dining a must-have amenity. At one time, these outdoor dining areas were perhaps reserved for higher-end establishments who could spend more on creating ambiance and comfort for their guests.
One of the biggest trends, even pre-COVID, has been the inclusion of patios at each dining establishment throughout any new retail development, whether table service is offered or not. Developers and their leasing teams have realized that consumers appreciate being outdoors and for many, the reason was to accommodate families with children, and sometimes their pets. In today’s world, the restaurants that have adapted to recommendations of social distancing and placed emphasis on serving patrons outdoors are the ones thriving.
Open fresh air will be the largest physical space request from customers.
The popularity of food trucks is another rising trend which couples well with outdoor venues and planned developments. Food trucks offer flexibility, mobility and may be inherently suited for outdoor dining spaces.
Additionally, as many return from camping, road trips and other outdoor vacations, consumers will long for access to the great outdoors. If only for brief periods to provide relief from the confinements of the home office or remote schooling, families will seek outdoor dining options at their favorite local establishments. Those who are conveniently located within mixed-use developments, or better yet, are walking distance from residential neighborhoods, will continue to take advantage of the fresh air and movement.
Open fresh air will be the largest physical space request from customers. What will that mean for restaurants that don’t have the space for dining al fresco? They may focus on take out, delivery, family meals, or a more niche specialized menu that differentiates their offerings from competitors. As restaurants resume operations, the time is ripe to make impactful changes. Adding wholesome, nutritious and functional menu options while embracing healthy environments should be at the top of that list.