Food Trends That Have Changed With the New Normal Brought by the 2020 Pandemic

Food trends in 2021 have been all about adapting to the new "normal" created by the ongoing pandemic. Food brands and restaurants have rushed to meet their customers' changing needs, offering new ways to enjoy foods and beverages without sacrificing safety. Embracing new technology and customer expectations, restaurants are giving their customers innovative ways to have their favorite restaurant-quality meal, all while they become more sustainable. Here are some food trends that have arisen from the reality of 2020.

Investment in New Technology and Reduction of Wait Staff

One of the biggest food trends in 2021 has been the restaurant industry's move toward new technological innovations. Though the pandemic era might seem at first glance like a counterintuitive time for restaurants to spend money on new tools, it's actually a great time for businesses to start using technology that boosts efficiency and opens new streams for revenue.

Innovations like online-only menus and ordering have created more automation for restaurants. These improvements allow restaurants to cut staff, all while cutting costs and maintaining profit margins. Restaurants can take advantage of having fewer in-person customers to get their new technology up and running.

The Rise of Simpler Menus and Ingredients Efficiency

Restaurants operating with reduced staff and significantly fewer in-person diners can reduce operating costs and increase efficiency by simplifying their menus. When restaurants offer a smaller menu of their most popular items, they can order ingredients in bulk while only impacting a fairly small portion of their customers.

At the same time, restaurants are growing more aware of customer concerns about environmental impact, such as reducing food waste. Showcasing a commitment to these values, for example by highlighting zero-waste processes and adopting delivery material that is either recyclable or compostable, allows restaurants to answer their customers' calls for environmental awareness while still reducing costs.

Contactless Payment

Image via Unsplash by @naipo_de

Contactless payments are not just a feature of the pandemic. Tools like Apple Pay and Google Pay are here to stay, and restaurants are quickly adjusting to this aspect of the new normal.

In fact, 74% of people say they will keep using contactless payments post-pandemic. It's no wonder, then, that most businesses have now integrated this service. Several banks have also raised their transaction limits, establishing contactless payments up as one 2021 trend that is sure to carry on into the future.

Dine-In Ordering To Replace Phone Call Reservations

Dine-in ordering services allow customers to arrive at a restaurant, then simply scan a QR code from their table and order and pay right from their phone. That means there's no need for customers or staff to touch menus or credit cards, helping to ensure the safety of everyone in dining rooms that use this technology.

Dine-in ordering also replaces phone calls, something customers eschew more and more these days. All in all, this service helps put restaurants in the position to succeed both during and beyond the pandemic, offering customers and staff ways to save time and stay safe.

The Popularization of Ghost Kitchens

Sound spooky? Ghost kitchen is actually just a term describing a professional cooking facility set up to prepare delivery-only meals, with no dining area available for walk-in customers. This phenomenon answers current customers' needs and anxieties by delivering professional meals to their doorstep.

Fun fact: Though ghost kitchens may seem like a development inspired by the pandemic, they've actually existed for a while now. Some chains (think: Domino's Pizza) have been using the ghost kitchen technique for some time. Now, more restaurants are embracing the trend.

The Return of Family Meals

Lockdown restrictions mean more time at home, which has led to a return of family meals. Sometimes customers who are stuck at home want to go the extra mile to whip up a homemade meal. Other times customers crave the food and drink experience a restaurant offers — but with an at-home, family-style touch.

Restaurants like Baton Rouge have responded to this call, offering DIY meal kits and pre-portioned meals and ingredients that let customers re-create that restaurant experience from the comfort and safety of home. This strategy means customers don't have to worry about their meal getting delivered cold or in bad condition. Instead, they can just follow the instructions the restaurant provides to cook the meal at home and enjoy it with their loved ones.

From meal kits to contactless payments and more, restaurants have responded to the new reality of the 2021 pandemic. The pandemic has changed the way the food and restaurant industry operates, and many of these trends have restaurants poised to continue to innovate and adapt in the years to come. Find a restaurant and enjoy a great meal