The Top Restaurant Trends in 2021

A diner inside of a restaurant wearing a mask

The restaurant industry is incredibly adaptive. Every year, restaurateurs continue to find innovative ways to improve on-site and off-site experiences for their customers, even if this means pivoting from their core offerings or rethinking their services.

Consumer preferences, as well as prevailing economic conditions, point to the trends and strategies that stick. Whether that is adopting contactless payment strategies, experimenting with online ordering, or finding ways to connect to their local communities, restaurants are open to finding the best ways to connect with their diners.

An overarching theme in the restaurant industry today is that digitisation will take centre stage as restaurants explore ways to improve internal efficiency, deliver more spectacular multi-channel experiences andstay connected with their customers.

Here are some of the top restaurant trends to look out for in 2021:

1: Contactless ordering and delivery is here to stay

Safety has always been a priority in the restaurant industry, but the focus on safety has become even more important during the pandemic.

Contactless tech will be a key investment in 2021, as restaurants look for ways to improve customer experience and meet changing safety guidelines.
Contactless ordering and payment options, such as touchless payments and digital and QR-code menus, will become more mainstream. Making the transition from physical to digital menus will be key in order to make customers and staff feel more safe day-to-day. Ensure your restaurant is equipped with the latest contactless payment hardware such as contactless card readers or card machines.

2: More restaurants will diversify revenue streams

For many restaurants, an important survival strategy will be to diversify revenue streams by pivoting from their primary offerings and branching out to other verticals such as retail.

The good news is that consumers are receptive to these experiments. Consumers are either very likely or somewhat likely to buy items from restaurants or retail stores that are not part of their core offerings.
Even if your restaurant is not ready to take the leap into new verticals, you can still make changes. For example, start with your menu and try cutting items or changing your menu completely in order to attract back consumers with new menu offerings.

With customers open to these identity experiments, there’s no reason not to spice things up, especially if it can translate to more revenue for your business.

3: Kitchen automation is a priority

As restaurants experiment with new menus, offers, and channels, streamlining the kitchen becomes crucial in order to effectively deliver a consistent customer experience across channels.

Restaurateurs are investing in digital technology to improve back of house processes, such as investments in kitchen automation technology.

Streamlined kitchens mean better efficiency across channels, giving restaurateurs the confidence and freedom to test out new concepts.

4: More direct orders coming through

More restaurateurs want to take charge of their online ordering and delivery in 2021 and decrease reliance on third parties. The reason is simple: They want to control the end-to-end customer experience.
It also benefits consumers who want to skip the middlemen and be able to use a restaurant’s own website or app for food delivery rather than a third-party app. Their main reason for doing so is to support the restaurant directly.

By taking more direct orders, businesses will have more control over customer engagement. They will have access to centralised customer data, allowing them to deliver better marketing and loyalty programmes.

5: Enhancing experiences to build customer loyalty

Restaurants are coming up with creative ways to boost customer engagement and loyalty.
One way businesses are doing this is by reimagining existing concepts. For example, drive-in and drive-through services are hardly new concepts in the fast-food industry, but they have become more popular since the pandemic.

Besides reimagined concepts, restaurants are also exploring special event initiatives to increase customer engagement. Some of these initiatives include personalised dining experiences for major holidays, online cooking classes and virtual tastings or dining events.

To make the most out of these initiatives, restaurants are also focused on rewarding loyalty. Well-planned loyalty programmes can provide deep insight into the needs and preferences of customers, helping businesses improve customer satisfaction. This is why many restaurateurs should plan to offer new or expanded loyalty programmes.

By providing creatively revamped services and investing in fresh initiatives, restaurants can provide great customer experiences whether customers are dining in or doing takeout, helping to boost customer retention and sales.

6: Restaurants are refocusing on the community

Restaurants play a special role in many communities. It’s the venue for many important life events — first dates, reunions and business meetings.

Strong community ties mean stronger connections with patrons, which is why many restaurants plan to invest in more community service initiatives.
Some ideas to get your restaurant more involved in the community include cooking for community service providers, donating food or money to community organisations, and offering support to local minority-owned businesses.

And this is a good development as many consumers want to see businesses provide food or supplies to community organisations, events, or service providers.

By participating in more community engagement initiatives, restaurant owners and managers can win more brand love while delighting patrons with new experiences.

Restaurant owners and managers have remained enduringly resilient in the face of mounting challenges and difficult economic conditions. From contactless service delivery to kitchen automation to reinventing old services for the patrons’ delight, restaurateurs say there’s no slowing down.

You can adapt some of these trends in your business. First, take stock of your current challenges and consider the trends that could deliver the most benefit for your business. In particular, embracing digital technology will help you run your business more efficiently and stay relevant in a digital future. An efficient tech-driven restaurant that is in touch with the community is the future of the restaurant industry.