It’s hard to believe that it’s almost been a full year since the beginning of the pandemic. Restaurants, of course, were one of the industries that had to make major adjustments to survive this uncertain time. While COVID-19 was the catalyst for those changes, many new behaviors or customer expectations appear here to stay. We’ll take a closer look at four of those trends here.

Mobile is a Must

A strong mobile presence was a priority long before last year, but the pandemic only magnified how important it is and accelerated the platform’s growth. More customers are ordering online than ever, so making sure they can do so easily and quickly on their phones is essential. Mobile usage, in general, is also up, from 3.5 hours/day on average to 4 hours. So as your customers are spending more time on their phones, you want to make sure interacting with your brand there is enjoyable and engaging. 

Drive-Thru Demand Continues 

Not only are more customers visiting drive-thrus, but they are also doing so more than ever. In a recent survey by Bluedot, 91% of survey respondents visited a drive-thru in the past month and reported a 26% increase in drive-thru visits over the past 10 months. As we noted back in October, drive-thrus proved to be a big advantage as many customers were looking to limit their time inside restaurants. That behavior is likely still at play, along with customers getting used to the convenience and speed drive-thrus provide as well as the integration of apps or digital transactions into the experience. 

The Need for Speed 

Speaking of speed, the same survey found that speed of service is becoming more important than ever. With personal safety still a big priority for customers, they reported nearly 80% of respondents would leave or consider leaving a restaurant with a long line. Even more striking, they found that 51% of respondents want their wait-time for in-store pick-up to be under six minutes, up from just 36% in August. 

Curbside Continues to Grow

Curbside pickup boomed during the pandemic, popping up at many restaurants that never considered it before. And based on customer behavior, it appears this trend isn’t going anywhere. Nearly 80% of respondents to the Bluedot survey utilized curbside pickup in the past month, and the percentage of people reporting using curbside more often than before continues to rise. Now that it’s more widespread, it’s important to make the experience as smooth as possible to stay competitive. 

While COVID-19 didn’t invent these trends or behaviors, it certainly pushed them forward faster. And now that customers have become accustomed to a new level of convenience that COVID-era changes ushered in, it makes sense they will stick around in some form or another. Of course, what’s right for one restaurant may not be right for the other, but investing in the trends that make sense for your customers now should set you up for more success as we move closer to the “new” new normal.

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