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A Year in Review of The Restaurant Industry and a Look Into 2021

restaurant industry 2021

2020 was a year unlike any other for restaurant owners. What began as a short shutdown turned into nine months (and counting) of navigating a global pandemic. Here’s a look back at one of the most pivotal years for the food industry as a whole, and a glimpse of what we can expect as we move forward into 2021.

Restaurant Owners Were Innovative All Year Long

From the initial shutdown in early spring, to a brief period of reopening over the summertime, to the harsher restrictions faced today, technology has played a critical role:

Delivery and Curbside Pickup Became Essential

At the start of the pandemic, when most restaurants closed their dining rooms, owners had to act quickly to save their business. Delivery became a crucial part of staff retention, saving jobs and keeping a steady revenue flowing.

From fast-casual pizza shops to elegant dine-in-only restaurants, all types of eateries had to adapt to this new normal. Many restaurants implemented curbside to-go stations where customers parked outside the restaurant and received their food with limited contact from staff.

Adjusting to these changes were difficult for many, but they kept many restaurants in business and ensured the health of staff and customers.

Digital Solutions Gained Attention

Mobile Ordering:

After an influx of off-premises sales, mobile ordering was implemented in droves to streamline the process for restaurants. Because of this, over 60% of restaurant experiences are fully off-premises, including drive-thru, takeout, and delivery.

By integrating a mobile ordering app, restaurants were able to form better relationships with their customers and enhance the customer experience, offering ease-of-ordering and customization.

Restaurant Management Systems:

Traditional POS systems weren’t cutting it for restaurant owners this year. Incapable of handling the sudden industry shifts of 2020, POS systems began to be ditched in favor of more comprehensive restaurant management systems (RMS).

Restaurant management systems offer in-depth reporting, customer loyalty program management, and a simplified ordering process that encouraged repeat purchases. They also allow restaurants to make menu changes quickly using a single dashboard, which proved necessary when restaurants limited their menus to conserve costs wherever possible.

Delivery Management:

While some restaurants chose third-party delivery, many implemented their own delivery services to their benefit. 70% of consumers surveyed said they’d rather order directly from a restaurant, preferring that their money goes straight to the restaurant instead of a third party.

Delivery management software allowed these restaurants to eliminate manual order and delivery entry while optimizing driver delivery times. Restaurants could keep their customers happy and safe by improving on convenient and consistent delivery needs.

Contactless Everything:

Those who thought restaurants would return to physical menus and cash transactions were in for a surprise. When restaurants began reopening after the initial shutdown, menus became QR codes that opened as PDFs on your phone, and you could easily submit contactless payment through the same device.

Contactless methods quickly became a staple as consumers were eager to get out and support restaurants while staying safe.

What Should Restaurants Expect in 2021?

Though a vaccine has been announced and we are all looking forward to a return to normalcy, that future is still a ways off. Even once we return to normal, the restaurants who invested in technology solutions will not have their dollars go to waste.

Customers will continue to rely on food delivery, curbside pick-up and other changes from the past year as we move into 2021. Business owners who implemented restaurant management systems will see greater success from the customer data they’ve collected, which will aid greatly in customer retention.

Here are some other trends restaurants can expect in 2021:

Ghost Kitchens:

Ghost kitchens eliminate the option of on-premises dining and only cater to delivery and carry-out requests. This allows these businesses to maintain a smaller footprint, reducing rental costs and expenses related to dine-in operations.

Robot Chefs:

Automation is growing. Many restaurants are implementing more automation to cut costs and increase profits. While robot chefs are new, they will likely only grow in popularity as the technology becomes more accessible.

After Creator launched its first restaurant using a robot chef in 2018, they found some interesting results. After two years of tweaks, all the robot chef needs now is a recipe and a procedure to be uploaded into its AI, and it can produce any cuisine, even cleaning the kitchen afterwards. Beyond increasing productivity, this method also ensures consistent quality.

Technology-Focused Operations:

The most resilient restaurants will have learned from their experiences in 2020 and will continue relying on technology moving forward so they can stay agile to adapt to industry changes.

Investing and implementing an RMS will help your restaurant with many areas of your business, from convenient customer ordering, to seamless delivery services. Technology investments can help you build stronger relationships with your customers, providing valuable ordering data that can lead to more profitable promotions and customer retention like you’ve never seen before.

Let HungerRush Set Up Your Business For Success in 2021

Not only should restaurants invest in the technology that will set them up for success, they should also look for a partner that will ensure the right fit. With an RMS from HungerRush, all the facets of your business can sync and work together in harmony as we navigate the new year. Here are just a few ways restaurants benefit from our solutions:

  • Keep all orders in one place to remove stress on employees and cooks, increasing productivity and orders per day.
  • Save money on third-party delivery services and use an in-house option all within one location.
  • Create customized experiences for customers whether they’re ordering in-store, online, or on your app.
  • Make customer relationships a priority with loyalty programs to maximize order offerings.
  • Make it easy for customers to order remotely via text, website, and app.

Want to see an RMS in action? Request a demo to prepare your business for a tech-based future.