If we’ve learned anything this year, it’s that it’s impossible to predict what the future holds. Even so, we’re all still trying to plan for the year ahead, and restaurants are no exception. While no one knows exactly how soon things will get back to “normal,” or what that “normal” will look like, you may be able to prepare even better by keeping in mind the following trends that emerged this year that are likely to continue into 2021. 

Curbside Is Here to Stay 

Curbside pickup took hold this year, and appears to be something that is here to stay. It fills a need for customers outside of pandemic times— convenience when there’s no time or desire to go into a restaurant—so customers will most likely continue to expect it as an option now that they’ve come to depend on it. But just become customers have become used to the idea of curbside pickup, that doesn’t mean it has to be boring. We know for some restaurants establishing a permanent curbside solution is easier said than done, but it may be worth looking into for the new year. 

Growth in Delivery & Online Ordering 

We also expect to see continued growth in delivery and online ordering. Similar to curbside pickup, customers have become used to ordering this way and are more comfortable with it than in the past, so it’s likely a service they’ll continue to rely on. On top of that, the impacts of COVID-19 will continue to be present into 2021, and the need for contactless service and customers’ wariness to dine out will continue until the pandemic is well under control. You may want to consider looking at ways to expand to-go menus or improve your online ordering process. 

Safety First 

As the pandemic continues into 2021, safety will remain an issue to plan around for the new year. Your restaurant likely developed and refined safety measures for servers and guests throughout this year, so be sure you’re prepared to continue these practices from an operations, training and financial perspective. If you’re still looking for ideas, we’ve covered safety signage tips and more ways to get customers to dine in your restaurant with confidence.

Comfort Food is King

According to chefs surveyed by Food & Wine, they see culinary trends shifting towards comfort foods. And we agree. With so much uncertainty this year, comfort foods are familiar, uncomplicated and offer a sense of normalcy. This may be beneficial to restaurants too, as resources may be limited. Plan for your tried and true favorites to continue to be what your guests turn to in the new year. 

It’s been a trying year for restaurants, to say the least. But as 2020 winds down, there’s hope in what the future will bring. Because there is a fact we know in all of the confusion of this past year—people love restaurants. They love being treated to their favorite foods and sharing a table with others, whether that’s in a restaurant or in their own home. And with the hopeful news about vaccines to help put an end to the pandemic, we’re one step closer each day to getting back to the bustling kitchens and buzzing atmospheres that are the mark of an industry that’s not just surviving but thriving. 

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