Why It's a Good Thing There's No "Back to Normal" For Restaurants

Sara Detrik
Marketing Manager

As spring warms up, we’re starting to see new life return to outside dining and restaurant revenue. The end of the pandemic is in sight, and you can taste the hope, and spring menu options, in the air. And with that comes the promise of change.

It’s an undeniable fact that our habits as diners and consumers have changed. It’s been over a year since COVID-19 came into our lives, and those changes have cemented themselves as ways of life. But we don’t have to let that be a bad thing; in fact, these new habits and changes we’ve made to our lives are great for our businesses!  

Recovery Becomes Momentum

The push to keep up with falling numbers in the restaurant industry has been exhausting. Restaurant industry sales went down to $659 billion, losing $240 billion in expected revenue. However, the constant state of recovery that restaurant owners have been maneuvering under transforms post-pandemic. The changes made to cope, such as adopting point of sale technology and virtual branding, have paid off for the past year, with the promise of more to come.

SOURCE: Year-over-year daily change in seated restaurant diners due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the United States from February 24, 2020 to March 24, 2021 - Statista.com (March 24, 2021)

Once recovery is no longer needed, the measures that were taken become momentum. The graph above shows the current climb back to where we were beyond the deficit, and once we reach the point where full opens are possible, we at Bbot predict a complete eclipse of past revenue.

If the upwards spike is on-trend to clear 0% by May 2021 at the earliest with the current restrictions and concerns, once those have been eliminated, the groundwork that's already done will break expectations.

This prediction comes from the combined guest data of 2019 and the current 2020/2021 changes that have been made to accommodate the recent revenue declines and spikes. 68% of customers agree that the use of server tablets improves the restaurant experience. Additionally, integrating your restaurant POS and reservations management system can boost your online reviews by 1/4 of a star and create 2% more return customers (who tend to spend 67% more on average).

With over 80% of restaurants already adopting point of sale technology, restaurant owners who adopted tech during the pandemic will see a further revenue increase post-COVID than those who did not. Rather than return to what these statistics once were, the “back to normal” mindset will be pleasantly surprised by an uptick in these stats. We predict the surge of diners back to restaurants will delight in the survival choices made and heighten these numbers by over 10%.

Dining Habits Stick

Delivery has become the new relied upon method for interacting with restaurants. Although that may seem like a trend that will fade as restaurants re-open, that could not be farther from the truth. Our habits are ingrained and will continue.

“...COVID-19 also triggered a significant jump in the number of people using online food delivery services. In 2019, the number of users amounted to 1.17bn. Statistics show this figure jumped by 25% YoY, reaching 1.46bn in 2020. In the next three years, the number of people using online food delivery services is set to reach almost two billion globally.” - Online food delivery market to hit $151.5B in revenue and 1.6B users in 2021, a 10% jump in a year, American Journal of Transportation, 1/5/21

As we watch the world return to normal, restaurant owners are faced with the new realities of guest dining habits. However, those new realities are in their favor. Adapting to the upswing in deliveries by finding new options away from third-party delivery apps will see a revenue spike. Although many restaurants have already moved away from third-party, those who haven’t yet might be disappointed as delivery continues to grow in popularity.

Another trend we begin to see is how often customers want to order from restaurants directly to avoid those third-party fees. As guests begin to return to on-site dining, that relationship will continue to strengthen through reservation software and online visits. By communicating digitally with their guests, the restaurant industry is set to develop deeper connections than ever before. Psychology studies indicate that Americans have never felt more isolated and stressed by the pandemic than now, meaning that the connections restaurants are making with their customers are set to last.

71% of Americans are feeling hopeful about the future.

This means restaurants are set to have a fruitful “new normal.” Between the pent-up expectations and hopes of consumers, the new point of sale tech put in place to stop revenue hemorrhage, and the digital communication tactics developed during COVID, the restaurant industry is ready for a comeback beyond expectation.

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