Eating In. Eating Out. What’s Next.

Have you noticed that we’re all staying in our cars to drive through for coffee and carbs more than ever? Using our phones to interact with restaurants more? Eating breakfast at 7 a.m., 10 a.m. or noon on a work day? Yes. There’s a new normal for restaurants and take out, one that’s tied to the new normal for everyone eating out. What was the norm may be forever gone after the masks have come off. So, where are opportunities for chef•cess?

Consumer Behavior has Changed

New habits developed over the last two years have changed the rhythm of our days. This has impacted the times we eat and where and how we eat. Working from home continues, which means less noshing out earlier in the day and a trend to more cooking at home. It also keeps demand for ultra-convenience close to home. Get ready for more double drive-through lanes being constructed.

Oh, and lunch hour is no longer an hour. Dinner is no longer just a 5 o’clock focus.

New Views on Taking Care

As health consciousness spikes, juicers are coming out and things like intermittent fasting are trending. Entire meals are skipped with 16/8 and Eat-Stop-Eat fasting. Plant-based menus are becoming more and more common. And it’s a trend that goes beyond juice and smoothie bars. How will this self-care with food impact your restaurant?

Restaurants are taking care of their staff in new and inventive ways too. Tipping is being reinvented as some restaurants automatically add a flat 20% for service with the option for guests to leave more. To retain staff, new flexibility like shortened hours, vacation time and new support like health benefits are showing up to lure workers back and build happiness.

When You’re Out You’re Out

There may be an increase in drive-through, fast casual, sipping a meal through a straw and cooking at home, but going out for a real meal will always be special. Providing that sense of escape and hospitality at a table will never go out of style. Consumers are realizing that they may have to be more patient with reduced staffing. They’re embracing smaller, more curated menus that have become the norm as restaurants battle to keep food waste down and plating
realistic for kitchen staff. Most especially, they’re enjoying the new level of creativity that’s sprung up out of necessity.

At an OpenTable panel, chef JJ Johnson recently said, “We should come back as a new industry.” Change is always constant in life and business. We’ve had a rapid dose of it over the last two years. Restaurateurs who can ride the tsunami of change with nimble optimism and practicality, will feed the joy the industry offers in the years ahead.

We amplify joy by helping more people eat outside through more seasons with the patio enclosures we build. If our experts can help you make the most of a change that’s clearly here to stay, please let us know. We are happy to offer information, tips on quality or a design quote so that you can make the most of your outdoor space. Here’s to the ever-evolving new normal for all of us.