Restaurant Trends to Watch for in 2021

Restaurant Trends to Watch for in 2021When we talk about trends, they typically invoke a sense of excitement and anticipation, right? What with the unprecedented challenges businesses of all types have faced this year, and the giant question mark surrounding what next year will look like, the idea of a trend seems a bit farfetched. However, it’s important to keep in mind that trends can also be thought of as a simple change in business strategy—which is how we’re defining them for the purposes of this piece. You see, the restaurant industry has changed significantly in 2020. Come 2021, be prepared to experience a type of settling, a calming of sorts. The lessons we’ve learned over the course of the year will now be integrated into a new wave of dining experiences. Let’s see what restaurant trends to watch for in 2021.

Expect Less Restaurants

It’s estimated that around 100,000 restaurants were forced to shut down this year amid the pandemic. And there is no recovery in sight for many of them, which obviously means these closures should stick around for at least the next couple years—if not more. What the coronavirus did for restaurants was expose the fact that perhaps the industry was oversaturated? This thinning out of restaurants could also lead to higher prices as demand creeps up and supply goes down. With higher menu prices, we could see higher restaurant wages too—which is always a great thing for the economy.

Expect Less Interaction

We’ve already experienced a lot of this to date, but something to look out for in 2021 is even less human interaction when dining out. The trends of family-style dining, shared plates, and all-you-can-eat buffets will fall to the wayside. Contactless ordering and payment options will become highly prevalent as a way to prevent exposure to the coronavirus, and groups of diners may even be separated with barriers. Servers will continue to spend less time with their guests as well. The biggest challenge with a lack of interaction is for restaurants to still maintain some sense of comfort, some type of “experience” that diners still crave even though we’re amid a global health crisis.

Expect Less Waste

One of the more uplifting things to come from the pandemic has been an increase in folks’ awareness of food waste. We’re all eating a lot more at home, and in newfound position to see just how much food we end up tossing. What with supply chain shortages, work-from-home orders, and dining outside the house becoming less of an option, consumers are opting to cook their own meals. Leftovers, rather than getting thrown out, are being repurposed into creative new meals. Hotels and restaurants, faced with lower demand, are now donating their extra food to local food banks.

No matter how you slice it, 2021 is going to be wildly different than 2020—at least the beginning of 2020. The restaurant industry has shown itself to be nothing if not adaptable to growing shifts in demand and policy. As a nation, it’s safe to say we’re all looking forward to closing this chapter of our lives. And as for 2021? Bring it on.