Although the past couple of years have been challenging for restaurants, cafes, pubs and bars; an incredible level of innovation has taken place. Businesses that have been willing to adapt and evolve have survived and flourished even under added pressures.
A year ago, many restaurateurs were desperate just to get open and cooking again. However, now that they have been open and operating in a close-to-normal way for several months, it’s other challenges that have proven often more problematic than Covid restriction. These include staff shortages and supply issues.
To deal with these issues, business owners running hospitality sites have had to embrace change. Meanwhile, consumers have also adapted and their wants and needs are now different.
Here’s our latest rundown of the types of consumer trends that restaurateurs, pub owners, and cafe owners will be seeing as we move through 2022.
Digital ordering is expected to overtake in-person ordering
We are past the stage of simply wanting to survive as hospitality businesses. Now, we want to thrive in a post-COVID world. This means being equipped to withstand the fundamental changes in consumer behavior that are here to stay.
According to analysis published by Morningstar, digital ordering, using phones and tablets, carried out on-table, rather than in person, is going to become the most common way to place a food order. Analyst R.J Hottovy, explains:
“We expect digital ordering to become one of the more permanent changes facing limited-service restaurants after the pandemic and remain at 20%-30% of transactions going forward (well above the single digits historically).”
The move towards digital menus and on-table app-based ordering was already taking place before the pandemic. But the crisis accelerated our willingness to embrace these new technologies. Consumers are finding that once they have tried on-table ordering, they are very keen to continue to use digital menus and non-contact ordering even when things are completely back to normal.
People like to eat alone
In 2019, some onlookers were talking about the rise of the solo diner. Now, in light of the lockdowns that have blighted the industry in 2020, solo dining is likely to be even more popular. Let’s face it, many consumers are struggling to find ways to get out of the house. They are keen to experience life out of the home, but may be feeling overwhelmed in larger groups after prolonged periods of social isolation.
Now, the trick with solo diner is to make sure they are not neglected. What do solo diners tend to spend their time doing? That’s right, looking at their phones. If you provide solo diners with a memorable atmosphere; warm, personal service and great food and drinks; they are more likely to share that experience on social media.
Investing in digital menus and automated app-based ordering can help to remove some of the awkwardness involved in solo dining. The diner doesn’t have to ask for a single menu, or spend time looking around for their server to put their order in. Instead, they can tap on the table, view the menu and make their selection without ever having to come into contact with anyone else. Solo dining bliss!
Consumer are fed up with downloading apps and scanning QR codes
Younger consumers are particularly keen for the digital menu and ordering revolution to continue. But they could do without all the apps and logging in that comes with it. This is where the Leslie technology comes in. Instead of tapping on a QR code or downloading an app, those using Leslie simply tap on the Leslie logo and a menu pops up on their phone.
From here they can use it much like any other digital restaurant menu, but they never need to store anything on their phones or sign in, for example. They can input their menu choices and select extras and drinks. Afterwards, they can request their bill seamlessly and never have to wait to be served.
Pubs, bars and restaurant are offering merch
There’s been a healthy level of growth in the number of pubs, bars and restaurants offering merchandise, such as T.shirts, baseball caps and tote bags. This reflects the fact that branding has become an increasingly important element to running a hospitality business. With even independent venues designing logos and printing merchandise, they are competing with the chain establishments that have been doing it for decades.
The trend is capitalising on the fact that consumers often feel true allegiances and loyalties to their local pubs and restaurants. So much so, that they are happy to invest a few quid in merchandise that looks cool and helps to spread the word. It’s a way to champion local, smaller businesses and we’re all for it!
Speed is the key
Brandwatch undertook a consumer survey in 2019 to find out what was most important to diners as they looked ahead. Nearly 30% of respondents said that either fast customer service or convenience was the most important factor when deciding which fast food company to use. When asked more generally about the factors that impacted their decision where to dine, 15% said friendly customer service was at the top of their list.
Millennials value speed and convenience when eating out. Many use their phone to research dining options and most are perfectly willing to use their phones as part of their ordering experience when they are eating out. And if it’s quicker to serve customers, it’s quicker to turn tables and increase sales and profits.
Customers want to dine out on their terms
This was one of the major conclusions of a Deliotte study into consumer dining behaviour that was carried out back in 2017, but it still rings true now. Eating out shouldn’t be challenging or difficult. Leaving a restaurant more stressed than when you went in somewhat defeats the object.
Instead, remember that consumers value the aspects of dining out that make them feel indulged, relaxed and in control. Digital ordering technology ticks this box very effectively, but so does offering takeaways and being open-minded about opening hours, dietary requirements and personal preferences.
The customer DOES always know best and it is a restaurateur’s job to monitor the needs and wants of their client base and meet these demands as efficiently as possible. That’s the attitude that will help eateries not only to survive recent challenges, but to thrive over the coming years.