Restaurant Industry News Roundup: December 2020
Happy New Year! Let’s take a moment to reflect once more on the year 2020. What a wild ride it’s been! It may feel like we’re at the precipice of the hill on a roller coaster, and we’ve been stuck there for months. As we head into the new year, let’s look at the restaurant industry’s stimulus journey, the cost of outdoor options, and a look at some of the trends we’ll be keeping an eye on throughout the year. Order food from your favorite place and dig into December’s roundup of news.
The Stimulus Bill and Restaurants
Congress issued a joint statement outlining critical parts of the $900 billion pandemic relief package, including revisions to the Paycheck Protection Program to “better assist independent restaurants.” The restaurant industry’s revenue has plunged $130 billion since last year. However, Congress did not include the Restaurants Act in the relief package, which would have specifically marked $120 billion to help small restaurants and bars. Lobbyists had pushed for revisions that would provide some relief to the industry. According to the National Restaurant Association, many of the PPP changes are not specific to independent restaurants.
The new stimulus is set to help “thousands of restaurants survive winter” and perhaps into spring. Still, it’s not going to be a long-term solution, says Sean Kennedy, executive vice president of public affairs for the National Restaurant Association. “We hope that after the holiday, Congress will be ready to discuss industry-specific solutions — that will help the nation’s second-largest private-sector employer contribute its economic revival in 2021.”
How Much Does It Cost a Restaurant to Set Up Outdoor Dining?
When the colder weather set in, restaurants needed to develop creative solutions, including outdoor dining. As trends indicated, the problem facing the restaurant industry would not magically disappear. Restaurants in Colorado are dealing with revenue loss due to the large decrease in indoor traffic and spending money to offer other dining solutions to offset the revenue loss. Colorado’s Winter Outdoor Grant Program has raised $1.8 million to help with the outdoor seating set-up. Colorado restaurants Black Cat Bistro and Bramble & Hare closed two of their downtown Boulder restaurants and decided to focus on their farm. The owners also opened a farm stand and built a fleet of food delivery trucks.
“The money is unfortunate, but I know for certain that this is better than being closed completely,” according to Eric Skokan, one of the owners of the Black Cat Bistro. “I’m instead focused in the other direction of, ‘what would it be like for all of us if we closed the restaurant completely?’ This is awesome.”
What Does The Restaurant Industry Look Like In 2021 And Beyond?
The pandemic has (and is still) changed everything, especially when it comes to the restaurant industry. The National Restaurant Association’s data illustrates that 83 percent of adults report “not eating on the premises at restaurants as often as they would like.” Specifically, 90 percent of baby boomers say that they would like to dine at restaurants more frequently. What trends will continue as a consequence of the pandemic?
- Real estate opportunities – when it comes to space costs, smaller restaurants are exploring virtual options, with 51% using ghost kitchen concepts, according to Technomic.
- Off-premise options increase – off-premise has solidified itself as more necessary than ever as restaurant capacities continue to be restricted even though restaurants encountered issues with third-party delivery companies.
- Restaurants are also turning to drive-thru based models, and carryout and curbside are becoming more permanent fixtures.
- Chicken wings are gaining popularity – various popups are emerging in this concept.
- Increasingly employee-focused business models.
- A shift toward more automation methods based on real-world examples, including Spyce in Boston.
- Plant-based menu options are becoming more permanent, possibly driven by the health crisis that erupted last year.
- Consumers are more focused on value due to financial uncertainty.
- Breakfast is due for a comeback; by the end of Q1, almost 60% of employees expect to return to the office.
- Chains will have to cut through the noise of the saturated industry with personalized messaging and loyalty programs.
It will be interesting to see how these trends will evolve throughout 2021.
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About the Author
Devyn Nance is the Marketing Coordinator at QSR Automations. She graduated from the University of Louisville with a bachelor’s degree in Communication and from Loyola University Chicago with a master’s degree in Global Strategic Communication. She considers herself an (amateur) profiler – trained solely from watching every episode of Criminal Minds. Outside of work, Devyn loves to shop, travel, hang out with friends and family, read, and watch shows on various streaming platforms.