Setting up a successful business requires a lot of time, energy, effort, and good ideas. An entrepreneur who wants to break into the market needs to have more than just good food. There are location and staffing to consider, regulations and rules to follow, and marketing strategies to develop and execute.

Restaurants hire good commercial product photographers to create images to be plastered on websites, social media, billboards, and posters. Business owners attend expositions and bazaars to promote and sell their products.

If you’re in the restaurant business, staying on top of the latest trends is also important. What’s hot today may be old news tomorrow, so it’s important to keep your finger on the pulse of the industry. With that said, here are restaurant trends to watch out for in the years to come.

Photo of a woman eating noodles and drinking wine at a restaurant

Delivery-Only Restaurants

One trend that is gaining a lot of traction is the delivery-only restaurant. These types of establishments have no dine-in option; instead, they focus solely on delivery. This trend emerged as a response to the rise of food delivery apps like Uber Eats and DoorDash. Then, the pandemic further made these businesses a necessity as people are forced to stay in their homes to prevent the spread of the virus. The trend isn’t going away now that it’s safer to go outside. Consumers are becoming more accustomed to ordering food online, so it only makes sense that restaurants would want to capitalize on this trend.

Another related trend is the ghost kitchen. A ghost kitchen is a commercial kitchen that is used exclusively for food delivery. These types of kitchens are becoming increasingly popular as they provide a cost-effective way for restaurants to get into the delivery game without having to set up their own infrastructure. Often, multiple restaurants will share a single ghost kitchen.

In 2020, even big brands such as Chuck E. Cheese rebranded to recoup losses cost by the pandemic. For a while, it operated as Pasqually, a delivery-only pizza parlor.

Fine Dining Goes Casual

For years, fine dining has declined as casual dining establishments have become more popular. In the coming years, we expect to see this trend continue as more and more consumers opt for casual eateries over formal ones. This doesn’t mean fine dining is dead; rather, we expect to see a shift towards casual fine dining—a hybrid of sorts between formal and casual dining. This trend has already begun with the rise of upscale fast-casual restaurants like Shake Shack.

Plant-based Foods Will Go Mainstream

As health consciousness continues to rise, we expect to see plant-based foods become even more popular as more people worldwide choose to go meat-free for environmental or health purposes. More and more consumers are looking for healthier options, so we expect to see a surge in demand for plant-based meat substitutes as well as vegetarian and vegan dishes at all kinds of restaurants—not just health food joints or in key cities.

Already, fast food joints like Burger King, Dunkin’, Subway, and Chipotle are offering food that’s either vegetarian or vegan to meet the increasing demand.

Contactless Ordering

Everything — from ordering to payment and tipping — will all be digital.

As the world slowly moves towards a cashless society, we expect to see more restaurants adopt contactless ordering and payment methods. In addition to being more convenient for consumers, these methods of ordering also help to minimize the spread of germs—something that is especially important in the wake of the pandemic. We expect this trend to grow in popularity in the coming years.

Digital ordering is not only limited to restaurants. Grocery stores also get in on the action with contactless pickup and delivery options. This trend is likely to continue as we move into the future.

Robots in the Kitchen

Experts have long warned that robots will one day take over jobs. That future may already be happening. Over the past two years, many restaurants adopted robots to help with food preparation and service.

Jollibee, a Filipino fast food, employed little robots on wheels to bring orders to customers. Restaurants in Japan and South Korea also had similar technologies to minimize contact between customers and staff.

In food preparation, robots also got involved. In 2020, White Castle introduced Flippy, a robotic fry cook. There’s also a machine that mixes cocktails and one that can roll sushi.

While these technologies emerged before the pandemic, they became more popular as a way to minimize contact and the potential for transmission of the virus. We expect this trend to continue in the coming years as restaurants look for ways to reduce costs and increase efficiency.

The way people purchase food and beverages from restaurants will continue to evolve. These are some trends that we think will shape the industry in the years to come. What other trends do you think we’ll see emerge?

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