Running a restaurant is difficult in the easiest of times, but the COVID-19 pandemic of the early 2020s has put almost unprecedented pressure on fine dining restaurants. Even so, there are positive signs for the industry. The National Restaurant Association (NRA) predicts foodservice industry sales will climb to $898 billion, and the industry will create 400,000 new jobs. Still, according to the NRA, nearly all restaurants, 96% experienced supply delays or food shortages. Many are expecting the industry will need another year to recover from profits lost during shutdowns. As costs continue to rise, creative restaurant owners will need to lean on restaurant technology to adapt to customers’ changing demands and operate more efficiently in order to save ever-thinning profit margins.
Changes Drive New Fine Dining Trends
The effects of the pandemic and its aftermath continue to have an impact on fine dining trends.
Here’s what’s in store for the coming year:
Outdoor dining is permanent
Adapted by many restaurants as a necessity during the pandemic, outdoor dining is here to stay. Whether for the health benefits of breathing fresh air or just looking for a better view, customers continue to flock to outdoor dining spaces.
To improve customer experience and increase outdoor sales, restaurateurs are relying on mobile point of sale (mPOS) solutions. This restaurant technology can reduce labor costs by saving steps back and forth to the bar and kitchen by allowing servers to transmit orders directly from the table. This time-saving technology can decrease the demand for labor by up to 20% or more per shift.
mPOS solutions can also be helpful tools in facilitating conversational ordering by providing customer information at servers’ fingertips, clearly communicating customer preferences, allergy information and pairing suggestions to make service more personalized.
Furthermore, upscale restaurants, such as Gianni’s at the former Versace Mansion in Miami Beach, FL, are finding the elevated level of service, personalization, and easy flow of the order-taking process with the right mPOS solution enhances rather than detracts from their luxury aesthetic.
Menus will change
Pressures from labor shortages, supply chain uncertainty and soaring inflation will combine with new dining trends to bring about changes to menus. This year chefs will abbreviate menus as kitchens prepare food for on- and off-premises dining. The presentation of dishes in take-out containers, as well as how well certain dishes “travel,” will continue to be important.
Profitability will be another driving force in menu evolution. Flashy loss leaders will get trimmed in favor of more profitable comfort foods at a price point customers can accept. These higher-margin menu items are more likely to be sourced locally, meaning fresher ingredients on the table and lower shipping costs.
For these menu changes to achieve increased profitability, restaurants will need to efficiently analyze data in order to carefully track menu items, update availability in real time and understand customer preferences.
Focus on beverages
Alcohol-free cocktails and fermented plant-based drinks like kombucha or Mexican tepache will increase in popularity. Restaurants will need an mPOS system that allows servers to take drink orders and immediately communicate them to bartenders, increasing the speed of the beverage service and the likelihood of the customer ordering more drinks. Mobile POS technology allows servers to spend more time with the customers, which can increase customer loyalty and revenues by targeting promotions and remembering customer preferences.
Find ways around third-party ordering and delivery services
Many restaurants responded quickly to the pandemic-related dining room shutdowns and began offering online ordering through third-party platforms. However, these platforms can eat a substantial amount of profit. Restaurants will be looking for systems that allow them to accept orders directly and manage delivery on their own, bypassing the expensive middleman. In addition to making financial sense, accepting online orders and managing delivery gives restaurant owners the ability to control the entire guest experience and ensure brand-enhancing, customer-pleasing interactions.
Restaurant Technology Helps You Stay on Trend
Using the right restaurant technology could be the difference between riding the wave of coming trends or being crushed by them. New technology can help restaurants keep customers happy, operate more efficiently and, most importantly, hold onto margin. The industry will never return to 2019, but restaurants can be successful by adopting new methods of operation with the help of restaurant technology.