2020 Restaurant Industry Trends
Predicting restaurant industry trends is critical to your continued success as a business. Savvy operators can monitor media outlets to see what pops, using data analytics to get a feel for how that might work for them. Some hot ticket items from last year included eco-friendly restaurant practices, globally inspired dishes, and cannabis or CBD-infused meal items. With each example comes its own unique set of challenges, but one that industry leaders have embraced throughout the season. For 2020, some of those same ideas still bear exploration, but with the growth of AI and the demand for off-premise dining, there is so much more to look forward to.
AI & Machine Learning
While we most often think of Artificial Intelligence as science fiction, the concept has evolved to fit our modern paradigm. From your iPhone to Alexa, there are plenty of examples of accessible contemporary AI. But how can that enhance your restaurant operations?
The Business of Big Data
Machine learning is exactly what it sounds like, the ability of a computer to analyze and act on patterns. You can see this anywhere from your Netflix account to the algorithms on Amazon that offer helpful suggestions to shoppers. For restaurants, machine learning can apply to everything from bin management to helping to predict customer orders. In some cases, your kitchen display system may already provide some data analytics that can help you make the right choice for your operation.
Related to machine learning, business intelligence tools help restaurants crunch large reams of data, which has become big business. For companies like McDonald’s who invested millions in tech this year, business intelligence is part of their strategy to analyze and optimize their customer experience, for quicker turn arounds and sleeker menu offerings.
Growing Your Off-Premise Options
Whether that’s through third-party options like DoorDash or GrubHub, off-premise dining is big business that continues to show robust growth. Employing a strategy for that now can give you options tomorrow, whether that’s by using a KDS that can properly route off-premise and in-house orders
Mobilize for Off-Premise
Part of the off-premise dining experience is the use of mobile apps to streamline the ordering process. That comes in all shapes and sizes, from allowing users to browse a menu and order from their mobile device to interfacing with businesses directly for mobile dine-in experiences. Not only are modern users knowledgeable of the process, but statistically likely to put them to use several times a month.
We wrote earlier this year about dark (ghost/virtual) kitchens, and since then, the market has exploded. Dark kitchens are rising to meet the demand of off-premise consumers hungry for a culinary experience on their terms. Dark kitchens save money by decreasing your restaurant’s operational footprint while enhancing your opportunity to satisfy your delivery orders outside of the interference of your dine-in operation.
Some companies are going above and beyond with their commitment to off-premise dining, by finding new and innovative ways to get food to customers. For several years now, companies like Dominos or Amazon have experimented with drone delivery, which has faced infrastructural –though not technological– challenges. While drone delivery may still endure regulatory issues, companies like Burger King have developed a method for delivering orders to guests stuck in traffic.
A Greener Future
Climate change is already disrupting our food supply chain, and that trend only promises to continue. Restaurateurs have responded by implementing a series of steps to help do their part to mitigate these changes, which includes managing food waste, packaging, and more.
Food Waste Management
Restaurant food waste is a continuing problem that is both harmful to the environment and cost-inefficient. In response, many operators have begun experimenting with zero-waste restaurants. A burgeoning phenomenon, these restaurants have structured their operations around a commitment to eliminating waste. Cook staff are challenged with using all food as possible, with leftovers going to compost.
Going zero waste might be a stretch, but fortunately, there are a lot of ways to fight against food waste. That includes using technology to your advantage to help with bin management and in measuring the demand for specific items. Planning for ways to donate leftovers or safely reuse food are hot topics that have remained in the public eye.
Just like food waste, food packaging has remained an ongoing concern. Especially with the rise in off-premise dining trends, restaurateurs are looking at alternative packaging methods from eliminating plastic straws to implementing biodegradable containers. Keep in mind that you can have your cake and eat it too, by using your environmentally conscious efforts as part of your restaurant’s cause marketing campaign.
Locally sourced ingredients continue to attract attention and rightfully so. The farm-to-table movement lowers everyone’s carbon footprint and gives back to your community all at once. Restaurateurs have taken notice and are responding by incorporating regionally available fare into international recipes, adding local flavor to the world market.
Going Meatless? An Impossible Choice
Over the past year, meatless alternatives have captured the public’s attention. From the inclusion of Impossible meats at places like White Castle and Burger King to the enhanced vegan/vegetarian menu at Taco Bell, the time to consider meat-free dietary options is now.
Food and Vice
From a variety of standpoints, vice has increasingly gained traction in the restaurant industry. With the loosening of blue laws in the United States, alcohol sales continue to bloom. Additionally, menu items that contain cannabis or CBD continue to generate a lot of coverage from the media, especially with more and more states legalizing marijuana. In a few states, psilocybin has also become legal, and in those states, you can see a move toward introducing this into drink and menu items.
Every year brings new challenges to your restaurant, whether that’s in keeping up with changing tastes or technological change. What will the future look like? Join us as we continue to track restaurant industry trends, and solve for tomorrow’s problems today.
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About the Author
Syd was a content marketing specialist, which are fancy words for writing pretty to tell a good story. He likes writing things about food, drinks, and music. He’s a musician himself, a father of two, and loves his wife a whole lot.