COVID-19 has changed the way we eat out – here are the trends that are here to stay

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Restaurant trends that will endure after COVID-19

Group of friends enjoying a meal in a restaurant

Restaurants had to make major adjustments when dining halls around the world had to close due to COVID-19. Between delivery services and clever outdoor seating arrangements, companies got creative to keep customers interested in ordering, but that still wasn’t enough to keep sales close to before levels. the pandemic. The U.S. restaurant industry did about $240 billion less in sales than expected in 2020, and some industry experts say restaurants will never recover from the pandemic.

The task force has gathered facts and statistics on restaurant industry trends since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic from industry experts, government data and news sources to determine which trends are here to stay.

While the restaurant industry has seen major changes, the pandemic has ended up being a catalyst for the industry. This sparked trends that helped some restaurants thrive, forcing many to embrace operational changes that may not have been considered before. However, not all restaurant trends of COVID-19 are seen as positive, and many businesses continue to face significant setbacks in recent years. Here are some examples of the creative changes that have resulted from the pandemic, with many trends that may have changed the way we eat.

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QR Code Menus

Close up of guest scanning qr code with mobile phone

In an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19 on surfaces, many restaurants have moved away from using physical menus and instead rely on QR-code menus. Diners use their phone to scan a barcode, taking them to a website where the menu is easy to navigate.

According to the National Restaurant Association‘s 2021 Mid-Year State of the Industry Survey, 57% of consumers viewed and ordered from a restaurant’s online menu during the pandemic. Additionally, The New York Times reported that according to another association survey, half of all full-service restaurants have launched QR-code menus since the pandemic began.

While this made it easier for customers to minimize their contact, it also eliminated staff time spent sanitizing menus or printing new ones. It also reduced the amount of waste produced by the restaurant, especially if the restaurant changed menu options often. It even turned out to be a time saver; some restaurants are offering a way for customers to pay directly on their phone instead of waiting for the server, reducing the number of touch points and reducing the risk of spreading the virus.

QR codes have also given restaurants an easy way to track consumer data, allowing businesses to build a database of customer history and contact information to augment their email marketing efforts and promote loyalty programs.

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Street and sidewalk meals

An outdoor restaurant in midtown Manhattan

After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined that COVID-19 virus particles are less likely to spread outdoors — and in highly ventilated areas — restaurants provided outdoor seating options , often blocking spaces for tables on sidewalks, curbs and the street. In September 2021, 72% of full-service restaurants and 57% of limited-service restaurants said they offered alfresco dining via a patio, deck or sidewalk, according to the National Restaurant Association.

Street restaurants have seen great success while increasing the number of tables and increasing restaurant operations, and many continue to offer outdoor seating year-round. New York City, for example, has implemented a permanent open restaurant program, allowing businesses to take advantage of sidewalks and sidewalks indefinitely.

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Staff shortages

Sign in restaurant window saying restaurant is understaffed

Although some restaurants saw an increase in business thanks to email marketing and curbside dining, many businesses still suffered from staff shortages. In 2020, more than 2.5 million jobs in the restaurant sector disappeared and around 110,000 establishments closed their doors permanently.

Since then, many restaurants have never seemed to recover, despite the number of jobs available in the market. As of June 2022, there were over 1.3 million job openings in the accommodation and food service industry, which includes restaurant and hospitality jobs. In July, the same sector hired about 74,000 people, but the workforce is still down significantly.

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Home delivery

A food delivery man delivers a restaurant order to a customer

Even though meal delivery service has exploded during the pandemic — providing more convenience for customers who prefer to play it safe at home — demand for home delivery has dwindled somewhat. Part of the reason is due to rising inflation costs, which makes meal delivery services expensive compared to grocery shopping or ordering directly from a restaurant. Additionally, with vaccines reducing COVID-19 death rates and easing social distancing guidelines, customers are returning to in-person dining, resulting in decreased use of third-party services like DoorDash, Uber Eats and Grubhub.

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Price increases

Close-up image of man giving credit card to waiter in cafe

Inflation is also driving the rise in restaurant food prices – in July 2022, out-of-home food prices were up around 7.6% from July 2021 rates. According to the New York Times, staff shortages, supply chain issues and even the Russian invasion of Ukraine have caused price increases at many restaurants across the United States.

Some of the foods whose prices have climbed over the past year include beef, pork, scallops and wine. Pantry staples like cooking oil and flour were also hit – prices for canola oil alone rose 159%. With prices skyrocketing, restaurants have no choice but to pass these increases on to their diners, creating a much higher price at the end of the meal.

This story originally appeared on Task and was produced and
distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.

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