The whole world pivoted in March 2020 — and no one had to pivot faster or harder than the restaurant industry. Overnight, restaurants saw themselves having to shut their doors, rethink their relationships with their clientele, handle menu management and order management different, change their restaurant technology, and even become health monitors.
The lessons learned were sometimes tough, and as the restaurant industry emerges into a post-pandemic world, it's clear that not everything will return to the way it was. Plenty of changes may last into the future. Take a look at what may some of the most enduring permanent shifts from the pandemic.
1. Digital Menus
During the pandemic, many restaurants set aside physical menus in favor of QR codes that let patrons download a digital menu to their smartphones — and fully 47% of restaurants expect to continue with those. even forgoing physical menus completely going forward.
Digital menus have plenty of advantages that go beyond health concerns. One key benefit is that you can change a digital menu at any time, even pulling a dish off the menu on a moment's notice if the kitchen runs out of ingredients. Going all digital saves money while also being environmentally conscientious, and it frees up server time to focus on customers and get food delivered promptly. Many customers also like the freedom of being able to, say, order another round of drinks without having to flag down a server.
2. New Standards for Treatment of Restaurant Workers
Restaurant work can be grueling, and it often takes a toll on the bodies and mental health of both the customer-facing and back-of-house workers. Many restaurants are now acknowledging the importance of their workers through new pay structures and health benefits that add to their employees' overall quality of life. In addition, many restaurants are exploring new scheduling options for their workers and dealing with burnout forthrightly to help protect workers' well-being.
3. Prepackaged Food and Menu Kits
Part of the 2020 pivot, for many restaurants, involved the creation of menu kits and shippable packaged food. Through these meal kits and even, in some cases, even lines of frozen food, restaurants were able to keep their specialties flowing to loyal customers. They even expanded their customer base through shipping signature items around the country. In addition, some restaurants, including major chains, served as ghost kitchens, cooking food for delivery services that had no brick-and-mortar restaurants to go with their names.
As people have become more accustomed to upscale at dining at home through takeout from their favorite restaurants and cooking high-end meals via menu kits, it's likely that customers will want to see these options continue post-pandemic.
4. Outdoor Dining
The pandemic forced many diners outside during 2020 and 2021 — and the shift was welcomed by restaurants, many of whom were able to keep their doors open through pivoting to parking lot enclosures and "streeteries." As it turned out, plenty of customers loved the feeling of eating outdoors, so this pandemic-forced trend is likely to stay in place going forward. For restauranteurs, this means the investments they made in heat lamps, cooling systems, and outdoor greenery and decoration will continue to pay off, and, in some cases, even expand their serving capacities.
5. Upgraded Restaurant Technology
From menu management to restaurant SAAS (software-as-a-service), the pandemic increased restaurants' need for updated, fluid technology. Digital tools enabled restaurants to communicate directly with customers, to work with third-party delivery services, to develop app-based ordering options, and to promote loyalty programs.
Even inside brick-and-mortar restaurants, upgraded tech has helped streamline service. On the customer-facing side, those QR code menus have been a hit, as have the ability to pay at the table with paperless receipts. Tech that helps kitchens consolidate orders for service, takeout and delivery minimizes errors and helps the whole team stay on top of things when orders are rushing in and the kitchen has to work at top speed to keep up.
As restaurants move forward into a post-pandemic world, they do well to keep the positive changes made during the big pivot. In particular, upgrading your restaurant tech can streamline everything from prep time to customer upcharges. Cuboh's proprietary tech helps kitchens keep up with the times and provide the high-tech options customers are looking for.