What Will the Future of Restaurants Look Like?

future of restaurants
Photo by Kenny Luo on Unsplash

What will the future of restaurants look like? I’ve gathered some ideas from all over the place, from chefs and restaurateurs, from business people and diners. The only certain thing is that dining out will look different for a long time to come. Amidst the changes are some bright spots.

  • Staffs will be smaller, at least in the next year, as the public slowly starts to emerge to eat.
  • The focus on take-out and delivery will not go away. Diners have now realized that it’s not a bad thing to eat at home, and when we can have people over in our dining rooms, take-out will be a more popular way to entertain.
  • Restaurants’ bottom lines will need to be more solid than in the past.
  • Everything will always be sanitized. Cleanliness will (and should) come even before the food is decided.
  • Many restaurant interiors have been permanently altered to adhere to distancing guidelines, as well as some space to increase table numbers in the next six months.
  • Breakfasts didn’t prove to be popular for take-out, so some venues moved to lunch/dinner instead.
  • Family-style meals were the norm during the lockdown phase, and more of those will remain on menus for both dining-in and continuing take-out efforts.
  • Just as the isolation period gave families time to work on being together more than usual, it also gave restaurants time to think about weak spots in their business occurred and allowed them to shore up resources for reopening. 
  • Pop-up restaurants were part of the local foodie scene, and might be uniquely positioned to grow in coming months. Without rents to worry about, or a large number of employees, these small, focused groups travel lightly and quickly. Smaller, intimate gatherings for meals could be the most popular way to eat out.
  • Streets closed to allow restaurants more outside dining areas may remain that way. Pedestrian streets could mirror Lincoln Road Mall, or large European boulevards, all with multiple restaurants seating folks under tent tops.
  • No more public soda fountains, which means no more getting your own refills. 
  • No more buffets. They were always a germ-infused area, albeit a popular feature. But the plastic guards aren’t enough against a virus.
  • More surcharges? I’m still incensed about the “upcharge” for a martini, which recently was $3 per drink at a local restaurant! Now comes word of COVID-19 surcharges, in efforts to bring in some dough for the sanitizing efforts. Most restaurants that have tried this backed off quickly due to an outpouring of protests. Yeesh.
  • Something being tried in Latin America: membership collectives. Traveling diners can pay a monthly fee ($20 has been mentioned) to restaurants for big perks down the line, such as New Year’s Eve reservations and early access to reservations on other popular days. 
  • Food wholesalers who decided to sell to the regular public during the lockdown just may have found a whole new sales area. And they can keep doing that, alongside their wholesale customers. 
  • This is on my wish-list: Restaurants have turned down the music and there’s been less noise due to smaller dining crowds. It’s been SO nice to be able to hear people across the table. Hoping this trend continues, even as dining numbers pick up.

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