This year, the food and beverage industry saw rapid change in both technology and consumer habits. Innovation and adaptability are essential to the success of restaurants as guest traffic remains a significant struggle.
Today we’re taking a look at 4 influential dining trends that have helped shape the business landscape for restaurants. Knowing how and why consumers are dining today isn’t just interesting, it can help with strategizing and planning for future success!
1. Takeout and Delivery
Perhaps one of the more obvious trends we’ve seen take off tremendously this year is the ever-increasing popularity of takeout and delivery. Third party apps, like Uber Eats and Grubhub, have seen a ton of success with their technology appealing to a large variety of demographics.
The “stay-at-home movement,” as some have deemed it, has gained traction for a multitude of reasons. Most commonly are the facts that some people don’t have the time to cook, and others would simply rather eat in the comfort of their own homes while watching TV. Whatever the case, the popularity of take-out and delivery isn’t dying down any time soon.
2. Experiential Dining and Eatertainment
While ordering-in is seeing significant growth, it doesn’t mean that no one is leaving their homes for a restaurant experience—but it could mean higher expectations for when they do. The mantra of the food and beverage industry as of late is that people want more than just food when they go out to eat with family or friends. They want experiences, they want something to do or to be entertained by.
Eatertainment venues like Dave & Busters and experiential dining restaurants like those run by the Specialty Restaurants Corporation are incredibly appealing to Millennials and Gen Z alike. Having everything you’ll need for a night out incorporates diners’ growing appreciation of convenience and entertainment.
Not every venue is going to redesign their entire concept from casual dining to full-on eatertainment powerhouses, but elements of eatertainment are showing up in various restaurants more frequently now in order to deepen the guest experience of patrons. It could be as simple as adding a few retro arcade machines by the bar, or upgrading to music videos on the television screens that adds the little something extra that people are seeking for their evenings out. Whatever the case, reinvesting in the in-restaurant experience is bringing more people through the doors once again.
3. Restaurant Automation
We’re still a long way away from fully robot-operated restaurants like something out of a sci-fi movie, but advancements in technology are making waves in the industry. Robots that can toss salads, mix drinks, and carry food from kitchen to table do exist currently, however.
In fact, in an interview with Food Newsfeed, Katie Haggart from the strategy group af&co called this technological rise, “robotic restaurant revolution.” In Haggart’s opinion, this trend is about to gain a lot more traction and viability. “Robots are a huge trend currently and only increasing,” she said.
Conversations about the “robotic restaurant revolution” are oftentimes concerned with the potential to dehumanize the guest experience. Some, like Sam Benson of Spyce Kitchen, believe that robotic automation will merely augment the abilities of current servers—not replace them. Others, like the founder of af&co Andrew Freeman, believe that robots will do well to automate the back-of-house operations, but don’t belong in the front, serving guests. “From a restaurant experience perspective,” he told Food Newsfeed, “I don’t know if I would want my food being delivered by a robot.”
Like most big changes in technology, there are ups and downs to consider. For now, the consensus seems to be that owners want to use robotics and automation to empower their employees and make their jobs easier in order to encourage more socialization with guests.
Another trend that’s been highly discussed this year is in personalizing the guest experience. Whether that too is accomplished by technology—like what McDonald’s recently invested $300 million into—or by simply shifting the priorities of servers from table turnover to more actively engaging guests, personalization has become a focus for many businesses in order to drive recurring business.
Competing against other restaurants is commonplace in the industry, but today a restaurant is also competing with everything that can entice people to stay home—not just delivery apps, but also home entertainment lifestyles in general. That’s a large reason why turning guests into regulars is such an important business practice.
As well, people have become accustomed to having their purchases personalized since the internet age of advertising based on one’s particular interests. Learning names, recording past purchases, and providing entertainment based on the specific tastes of guests has become a top priority for TGI Fridays among many others—and has seen excellent results.
For more industry insights and tips for all things restaurant and bar, subscribe to Control Play's blog today and receive weekly content updates in your mailbox.