Restaurant Industry Trends for Surviving COVID-19

As the restaurant industry faces mass closures during the coronavirus, many are adopting new trends and food service concepts in order to stay afloat.

Before COVID-19, dining rooms with sit-down service prevailed as the primary operating model for the restaurant industry, with restaurant operators offering takeout and delivery as secondary services if provided at all. Now, takeout and delivery have become the lifeblood for many of these restaurants as owners and operators navigate how to keep their businesses up and running. As a result, many restaurants are getting creative with new offerings that reflect food safety requirements and cater to changing consumer preferences in the age of social distancing.

Popular Restaurant Industry Trends Right Now

  • Offer contactless delivery. Also called “touchless” or “no-contact delivery,” contactless delivery occurs when a driver drops food off to your door or steps away without face-to-face interaction. Food may even be sealed to ensure it has not been opened, and bills and tips may be prepaid. Contactless delivery is one of the biggest buzzwords in marketing food safety and building consumer confidence right now, as limited food handling and interaction with others are encouraged. Restaurants with existing delivery platforms were well-positioned during federal and local “stay-at-home” orders, and as a result, sales for delivery-focused restauranteurs are currently well above those of prior years.

  • Offer curbside pickup or takeout. Curbside pickup and/or takeout have become a new normal for many restaurants who relied on dining room service pre-COVID-19. Instead of walking in to pick up a to-go order, call when you arrive or park in a designated spot and a masked employee will walk your food out, possibly even right up to your car door. For restaurant operators, curbside pickup can be an attractive option for avoiding delivery expense or delivery service commission fees. For consumers, curbside pickup can offer limited exposure without additional costs for delivery.

  • Minimize contact and offer touchless options for Quick Service Restaurants (QSR) and fast casual. For QSRs and fast-casual operations, drive-thru windows and a built-in ability to get food (and diners) out quickly may soften the blow of closing dining room services. For those that offer drive-thru services, new tactics may be employed to promote employee and customer safety at the window. Wearing masks and gloves, taking payments via touchless credit card readers, installing Plexiglas sneeze guards to reduce potential disease transmission and offering no-touch menus via online apps or single-use paper menus minimize contact and may reduce exposure.

  • Get creative and set a vibe. Social distancing may reduce your restaurant capacity, but it doesn’t have to ruin the dining experience once your restaurant reopens. Rely on your front-of-the-house staff to set the tone for limited capacity and encourage them to have fun with your new normal. Some restaurants have even embraced the bizarre, placing mannequins at “too close” tables, while others place stuffed animals in chairs as seat fillers to mark social distance requirements. Whatever you choose, make it authentic to your restaurant and your diners will appreciate your commitment to their safety.

If you own or operate a restaurant during this pandemic, consider whether or not these restaurant trends make sense for your business. As uncertainty looms for the foreseeable future, some of these restaurant trends are likely here to stay.

Questions about market conditions or looking for industry expertise? Get in touch with Regions Restaurant Banking Group or find helpful resources from Regions Commercial Banking Insights.


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