2020 was a difficult year for the restaurants industry. For many businesses, it was the end, and for many more it will have been the beginning of the end. Others however will make it to 2021, which will hopefully – dare I say, likely? – be the year in which things will finally go back to normal.
It’s therefore time to look at some of the trends that will shape 2021, as restaurants, now more than ever, can’t afford to be left behind.
At-home restaurant experiences
In my last article, I wrote about how restaurants that were pushed into delivering food by the pandemic should continue to do so even after the pandemic is finally over, because it provides an extra revenue stream and because customers will have gotten used to having that option. Delivery doesn’t have to mean plastic containers and Domino’s-style drop-offs however. Instead, for many restaurants it might come in the form of what is sometimes referred to as at-home restaurant experiences. An example of this is provided by ThinkFoodGroup’s Rick Billings in a recent Food & Wine article , in which he mentions that one of ThinkFoodGroup’s restaurants is successfully delivering paella to its customers, by putting the actual paella pan in a pizza carton, thereby adding an extra spark to the presentation.
The slow but steady trend towards more automation will continue. Chances are that the pace will quicken, as the pandemic will leave many customers weary of extended human interaction and many restaurants concerned about high payroll costs. However, few restaurants will be able to fully eliminate human interaction, nor should they want to, as it would likely turn off many customers. In 2021, the industry should therefore spend some time figuring out where the balance could lie.
As bleak as the current crisis may be for the restaurant industry, it will also serve as a moment of creative destruction. Simply put, there will be a lot of empty, cheap-ish space for restaurants, which will encourage would-be restaurateurs to not only open their own restaurants, but maybe even try something different.
Healthy and ecologically responsible food
Restaurants can no longer afford to hide from the reality that they too contribute to man-made climate change and a variety of ongoing health crises. Pivoting towards more healthy and responsible food – for example by drastically reducing the amount of meat they serve – is not just the morally right thing to do, but also the financially sound thing to do, as the pandemic will only accelerate the already strong trend of healthier, more ecologically responsible lifestyles.
The crisis isn’t over, and things might get worse before they get better, but the end appears to be in sight. It is up to those restaurants that are left and those would-be entrepreneurs still looking to get into the industry to pick up the pieces and rebuild. By keeping in mind some major trends, just a few of which I have addressed here, that monumental task might become just a little bit easier.
About the author:
The co-owner & founder of start-up 1520 in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, Marius Zürcher was a participant at FCSI’s ‘Millennials’ focused roundtable at INTERGASTRA 2018.