Now that bars and restaurants around the country have been opening back up to full capacity, it has been a topic of conversation anticipating what kinds of trends we will be seeing from customers when it comes to their dining habits. Over the past year and a half we’ve seen significant boosts in online ordering, carryout and contactless delivery due to the effects of COVID. Now, which of these trends are here to say and what other changes will we be seeing from customers' dining habits around the country?
During the pandemic, one of the biggest changes we saw was the increase in technology throughout many bars and restaurants to allow for online orders and minimizing contact as much as possible. Many places came up with their own methods as far as getting orders and getting them to their customers to ensure their safety, but almost all of them used some sort of new technology. Bigger chains like Chipotle and Chick-Fil-A made it so you could only order via mobile app or online. Other smaller restaurants were forced with the challenge of incorporating their own online ordering system as well. Businesses had to find new ways to engage their customers while not being able to physically be in contact with them While many places were able to adapt and make these changes, now that restaurants are opening back up, it’s become paramount for these places to get customers back into their business and create that customer loyalty that pushes people to continue to come back.
Restaurant dining has already and will continue to increase as people become more comfortable with the idea of dining in. However, it’s tough to say whether it will return to levels seen prior to the pandemic. Deloitte did a poll of 3,000 US Consumers asking them about their anticipation of dining habits post pandemic. Many said they will be eating in much more than they did prior to the pandemic. While safety is definitely a factor in this, perhaps the biggest reason people feel this way is because all the time they have had at home has allowed them to become more experienced as far as cooking for themselves. By not having the opportunity to go out for dinner on a weekend night, more and more realized the benefits of cooking your own meals. It’s cheaper, oftentimes healthier and now that you have services like InstaCart you can have groceries literally delivered to your front door. In the same article by Deloitte they point out that cookbook sales were up 145%, and countertop appliance sales were up 32% in 2020. It’s not necessarily that nobody wants to eat out, it's a mere change in lifestyle and eating habits. While in the coming years we will surely see dining out numbers continue to increase, it is so important for bars and restaurants to find ways to attract new consumers to their business in the short run.
So how can these businesses go about these new dining trends? Surely you will still have many regulars coming in on a weekly basis, but the attraction of new customers is key. Utilizing the new technology that many places already incorporated during the pandemic is a great start. Come up with new promotions, discounts, events, etc. Give people a reason to engage with your restaurant outside of just coming in for dinner. It can be something simple like trivia or live music. If you give consumers something they can’t get while cooking at home, it’s an added benefit as far as acquiring new customers. As we’ve mentioned previously, customer loyalty and reward programs are another great method to create engagement and draw people in. Give them rewards for being loyal customers, it can go a long way. Lastly, continue to emphasize social media use. With all the time spent at home, social media use is at an all time high. Get your name out there and promote what you have to offer. Facebook has always been the biggest platform for businesses and restaurants, but platforms like Instagram and Twitter have their benefits as well. The more engagement you get from social media, the more likely you will be able to turn those engagements into customers. In the coming months we will begin to see what clever new ways businesses are coming up with to acquire new customers. If you can get ahead of the curve then your chances of being successful are looking much higher.