6 Restaurant Trends Shaping 2020

The food service industry has changed irrevocably this year. Between a global pandemic forcing so many restaurants to close forever and Generation Z entering adulthood in quarantine, the market has adapted to the “new normal” and businesses need to pivot accordingly to stay relevant in consumers’ minds.

The market is still changing, but the impact that 2020 has already had on the industry will likely strengthen with time. Here are 6 trends that grew this year and that are shaping the future of food service.

1. Online ordering

Three out of five customers order delivery and takeout at least once a week, and ever since COVID-19, it’s proliferated even more. With little other option, nowhere to spend their days, and grocery stores a continued hotbed of potential infection, off-premise dining has gotten more and more popular especially since the implementation of safety precautions like contactless delivery options. By 2024, online ordering is expected to be a $32.2B industry, and people in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties make up the biggest percentage of those sales compared to any other group.

As far as third party apps are concerned, it’s unclear whether they’ll go anywhere soon. Though some restaurants are fed up with the high commission fees, others rely on them to more easily open delivery streams and more successfully market their businesses. The apps themselves have considered eliminating per-delivery fees in favor of flat-rate subscriptions for customers, which some already use but others prefer not to opt into.

2. Conscientious spending

Increasingly, consumers are dedicated to patronizing restaurants that share their values of sustainability and eco-friendly practices. They’re seeking shared environmentalist principles, which restaurants can promote with changes like zero-waste kitchens, plant-based menus, and other green practices. Experiment to find out what works best for your business.

Customers also want more transparency regarding health and sanitation measures, the net cost that led to the listed prices, corporate salaries, and more. They’re also taking a closer look at how the workers are treated, generally valuing fair trade practices, diversity, and living wages for employees. People don’t want to support companies that don’t support their workers or the earth.

3. Evolved menus

People are placing a greater emphasis on healthier living. They crave transparency about their natural ingredients and beneficial bacteria like probiotics. Menus are also trending toward becoming smaller and more simplified; studies show that too much choice can actually be overwhelming for consumers, while fewer menu items are beneficial for them and the restaurant. It’s operationally efficient to make fewer dishes by cooking in bulk and focusing on producing higher-quality food, and gives your staff the time to focus on better customer service.

4. Lifestyle

Restaurants don’t want to be a place you go to eat and then forget about it the minute you walk back out the door. That’s why they’re shifting toward strengthening their customer relationships so that their brand is part of consumers’ identities and thus has longevity. For example, a lot of restaurants are selling merchandise and promoting brand-based product lines on Instagram to increase customer loyalty and retention, as well as boosting their social media engagement. Merchandise has the added benefit of being, effectively, free advertisement every time somebody walks around in it.

5. Reduce employee turnover

The restaurant industry has famously high turnover rates, and they’re finally beginning to work from the ground-up to increase employee retention. Constantly hiring and training staff costs a lot of money, so it’s worthwhile to keep employees long-term even if it seems a little more expensive at face value. Employees are increasingly seeking benefits like health and dental, stability at the job, an opportunity for growth, and fair pay. Restaurants that pay their staff members full salaries are not tipped minimum wage are more likely to keep employees around long-term.

We’re also shifting into a post-Me To the world, and employees expect better treatment. The service industry is plagued with sexual harassment, racial discrimination, and management turning a blind eye to inequality. Higher-ups need to let their employees know that they’re on their side and create zero-tolerance workplaces, whether the perpetrator is a customer or another employee. One effective action you can take is implementing the three-light system, invented by Chef Erin Wade for her restaurant, Homeroom: Yellow means a warning that things feel off, where the worker can request additional supervision or a new table assignment if they want; orange is for questionable behavior like comments or gestures, where the manager takes over the table automatically; red is for repeated “orange” behavior or an escalation into more overtly inappropriate comments and touching, where the customer gets immediately escorted from the premises. It’s important to remember that these need to be on a zero-tolerance basis, so staff members never have to justify or explain their color warning. When they say it, it just is.

6. Technology takeover

Restaurant technology has significantly advanced in the last few decades, and now customers expect a certain level of automation, self-service and efficiency. Managers increasingly prioritize all-in-one smart hubs that are quick, efficient and cloud-based technology. At eatOS, our Point of Sale system streamlines your operations and boosts your bottom line, so schedule a demo with us to learn how we can make your restaurant run more efficiently too.

All of this and more is changing, and will likely continue to grow in the coming months and years. Technology, customer prioritization of conscientious spending and online ordering, evolving menus and more will continue trending upwards, along with other features we haven’t even seen yet that will follow the same pattern of automation and increased environmental and worker support.

For restaurateurs, it’s important to remember that Gen Z is aging into the marketplace, and they should cater to them just as much as Millennials and older generations. Take time to research what social media Gen Z spends time on, the pricing structure they can afford and their values, like fast-casual dining and exploring an expanse of new flavors and different cultural cuisines. The restaurant industry is evolving and it will continue to shift as the rest of the year brings new developments and new technologies with it.

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