June 15th, 2020

Could Outdoor Dining Help Bring Back Restaurants?

Posted in Restaurants, Tips

Patios, Sidewalks, and Streets Become Dining Rooms as Restaurants Restart

Outdoor Dining

As restaurants nationwide begin to open their doors again (with limited capacity), creative owners are asking if outdoor dining might be a solution, or part of a solution, for how to restart on premise dining.

Many factors come into play here, but initial prospects are positive. Let’s see what we need to make outdoor dining a boost for restaurants and how it can be done safely.

Outdoor Dining in Response to Coronavirus

Government

How To Outdoor Dining

The first step in getting diners outside is getting enough space to allow diners to eat while maintaining distance. Restaurants and government bodies have been working diligently in cities around the U.S. to loosen restrictions on outdoor dining.

The focus is on freeing up sidewalk spaces, common spaces, green-ways, and even streets in some circumstances, to become outdoor dining rooms. In San Francisco, Mayor Breed has released the “Shared Spaces” act which goes into effect on June 15th, allowing restaurants to set up tables in parks, on sidewalks, and in plazas.

Chicago is taking this one step further by looking at specific neighborhoods that could be shut down to traffic and turned into large outdoor dining centers. Denver is extending the common walkways in places like 16th Street Mall to allow for more tables than just the designated patios. Ideas like this, when combined, could be enough to get some restaurants back to capacity.

Creative Spaces

Drive-In Restaurants

Other restaurants and cities are finding even more creative ways to create safe dining spaces. BJs Restaurant and Bar in Mingus, TX turned their parking lot into an outdoor movie theater and is providing their full menu for diners to enjoy in the comfort of their own vehicles. They’re able to serve up to 40 vehicles a time during screenings.

Weather

Outdoor dining areas

Weather is the always unpredictable factor in outdoor dining, and restaurants aren’t blind to this. Many have invested in over-sized umbrellas, tents, and other physical barriers to keep folks outside and comfortable.

In Amsterdam, Mediamatic Eten restaurant went as far as building personal outdoor greenhouses for their guests. While they might not be feasible for every restaurant, it certainly is a creative solution!

Safety

Restaurant Diner Safety

Finally, and most importantly, restaurants will still need to address how to keep people safe during their dining experience. Most venues still require masks to be worn when not actively eating or drinking. Outdoor sanitation stations have been implemented for customers to cleanse their hands without needing to crowd inside.

Restaurants will also still have to balance the need to have enough guests in seats to cover costs, while ensuring necessary social distancing. Luckily, outdoor spaces allow for more creativity in table designs.

And finally, the issue of restrooms. It will still be important that people do not congregate, so a rush for the lavatory could spell disaster. Therefore, servers may need to alert customers when the restrooms are free, require outdoor lines to enter, or other, more creative solutions, like text requests or pagers.

Ready to Dine Outside?

I know I am. So, use these ideas to create safe spaces for your diners. I know they’re just as excited to see you as you are to see them. And don’t forget to check out our Food Trends During Coronavirus blog for more on what diners are craving.

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June 1st, 2020

Food Trends During Coronavirus

Posted in Consumer Trends, Culinary Conferences, Food Trends

How Has COVID-19 Changed Food Trends?

Food Trends During Coronavirus

Food trends during the coronavirus pandemic have, as you might imagine, changed from what earlier predictions may have expected. Isolation and self-preparation of foods has left consumers yearning for comfort and portability over experimentation and presentation.

During a recent RCA PoweredUp session, Mike Kostyo of Datassential discussed this very topic. By monitoring menu and retail trends from over 100,00 national sources, he showcased what consumers are really craving during this time.

Let’s look at some of the top trends highlighted.

Coronavirus Food Trends

Plant-Based Foods

Plant Based Food Trends

2019 marked a major up-tick in plant-based food representation on menus nationally, going from 14% in 2018 to 56% in 2019. Meat sales from April 12 to May 9, 2020 were 28 percent higher than in the four weeks ending Jan. 18, 2020 according to data from Nielsen. Plant-based meat substitutes, had a jump of 35 percent in sales during the same period. The increase for uncooked products was more dramatic: 53 percent for the vegan products versus 34 percent for meat.

Environmental concerns among consumers are also a driver for this trend. In fact, 21% of consumers are interested in plant-based foods for the environmental impact alone. Generation Z is undoubtedly the leader in plant-based food interest, with 64% of Gen. Zs having tried it and 1 in 5 saying they love it. So, if your target audience is comprised of Gen. Z, you should be considering plant-based options on your menus ASAP!

Mexican Food

COVID-19 Food Trends

Whether it’s the bottomless chips and salsa, the energetic social nature of Mexican restaurants, or the ice-cold citrus margaritas, Mexican food leads the pack for the most craved foods during COVID-19.

The tough part with most Mexican foods is portability. The crispy, crunchy tacos and tostadas tend to lose their texture, smothered burritos get a bit soggy, and fajitas just don’t have quite the same flair without the sizzle platter.

Many Mexican restaurants have overcome these limitations by providing deconstructed to go kits, creative to-go packaging with moisture vents, and limited menus to ensure what they are selling travels well. As Mexican restaurants continue to learn how to overcome these limitations (to-go margaritas certainly help!), you can expect this trend to strengthen and cross into other platforms, like pizza and burgers.

Pizza

Pizza Popularity during COVID-19

Most experts expected pizza to be a top trend prior to coronavirus and it looks like they were right. Cravings for pizza have not decreased during the pandemic. In fact, according to QSR magazine, in March the pizza segment of restaurants showed the smallest losses (8%) but were already starting to level off again.

There are many reasons for this. First and foremost, pizza is still the most popular food in America. Additionally, pizza has high value, has been available to bake at home for years, and is essentially designed for delivery, so there was no consumer hurdle to get over when dine-in options closed.

Pizza companies have further increased interest in their products by offering plant-based options, family meal deals, and efficient contactless order and delivery methods.

BBQ

BBQ trends

BBQ, the classic backyard event, and the All-American outdoor activity. Couple that with the warm summer weather and nostalgia for simpler times and it’s no wonder BBQ ranks high on the current trends list. Like meatloaf and apple pie, BBQ is a classic American comfort food.

Restaurants can easily incorporate BBQ items on their menus. Brisket tacos, pulled-pork pizza, and short-rib sandwiches are all crave-worthy inclusions that consumers will love. Plus, BBQ is extremely portable and loses very little quality in transport.

So, get those smokers rolling, the people want ribs!

Is Your Menu Adapting?

We hope so. Check out previous blogs to see what other trends we’ve seen and how restaurants nationally are responding. Chime in below with your thoughts on what’s trending how to attract customers. We love your feedback.

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