Trends for 2021: Creativity & Innovation in the Restaurant Industry

Dec 17, 2020

As we usher out 2020, we reflect on this unprecedented year; we look forward to 2021 with renewed resiliency and optimism. The COVID-19 worldwide pandemic significantly impacted the restaurant industry in ways we may have never imagined. As a result, the restaurant industry will have to be creative and innovative as we reimagine business in 2021 and beyond. With the dramatic changes caused by the pandemic, customer’s needs and preferences have also shifted, which, in turn, has influenced many restaurant trends.


Off-Premise Dining 

With the various stay-at-home orders, indoor restaurant closures, and reduced allowable occupancy levels due to the pandemic, many communities are looking for ways to support local businesses and the hurting restaurant industry. Forced to focus their attention on creative ways to sustain their businesses, many restaurants pivoted to off-premise dining. Offering this option provides a way for restaurants to safely bring food straight into guest’s homes while retaining staff and has allowed many restaurants to survive the mandatory closures. Another interesting off-premise dining trend is Wonder, a new delivery startup launched by renowned celebrity chefs. This delivery service “focuses on high-income suburban neighborhoods and licenses notable restaurant brands to package their famed dishes into meal kits and finish them in hybrid electric vans while in transit to consumers’ doorsteps.” We anticipate that guests will likely continue to feel uneasy about dining out once restaurants are fully reopened, so it is essential to keep a focus on off-premise dining well into 2021.


Contactless Ordering & Payment

Before the pandemic, placing an order via a mobile app or the ability to pay by waving a phone or credit card over a payment device was gaining popularity. Customers appreciated the increased transaction speed and convenience. Since the pandemic, many restaurants have further enhanced their online ordering platforms, created apps to facilitate more efficient ordering processes, and partnered with UberEats, DoorDash, Grubhub, and other contactless delivery service options. Even when the pandemic is over and health and safety measures relax, contactless ordering and payments are likely here to stay.


contactless delivery
Contactless delivery


Curbside Pickup

With safety and sanitation the number one goal, contactless curbside pickup has grown dramatically in popularity. Many restaurants have designated parking spots reserved for curbside pickup.  Orders are placed in the trunk or passenger seat, reducing the need to have any physical contact between staff and guests. Many enjoy the ease and convenience and especially the safety, and it’s likely we will continue to see the curbside pickup option well into 2021.


Menu Innovation

Businesses are rethinking their menu offerings to be more accessible and viable during the pandemic. Take, Noma, a Michelin two-star restaurant and four-time winner of the “World’s Best Restaurant,” which replaced their legendary 20-course meals with affordable burgers and snacks. When Seattle’s fine-dining restaurant, Canlis, shut its dining room, they launched a morning “Bagel Shed,” a lunchtime burger drive-thru, and a dinnertime family meal delivery service, complete with bottles of wine.  These changes allowed them to create jobs for their employees while continuing to serve their community safely.


Resiliency & Innovation

Despite the rapid and dramatic changes that the restaurant industry has endured, it has remained flexible and creative, fostering new ways to meaningfully engage with customers, all while balancing the need to protect employees and stay in business. While the future is unknown, one thing is sure; the restaurant industry will remain resilient and innovative and continue to grow and make necessary changes to meet customer’s needs, wants, and expectations. As we say goodbye to this unprecedented year, may we continue to stay safe, healthy, and creative into 2021 and beyond!