The Top 21 Restaurant Trends Of 2021

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Stephanie Graham
December 6, 2021

It's finally here, the top 21 restaurant trends of 2021.
Over the past year, and in the face of ongoing repercussions from COVID-19, the restaurant industry has had to innovate to survive.  And in that evolution, some unique and unexpected restaurant trends have evolved.
This article captures the top 21 restaurant trends that evolved this year - both out of necessity - and by popular demand!

1- Smaller menus.

Restaurants have taken to streamlining their menus for customer satisfaction, and in order to manage supply chain challenges with more ease. Another reason for small menus is that trends change, and so menus should too!

For instance, in the wake of the pandemic, customers have begun to order healthier foods, so it’s only wise to adjust your restaurant menu accordingly. You can introduce healthier items on your menu by focusing on areas that will have minimum disruption on your business operations. 

Some new trends that are beneficial to health-conscious customers include items made with natural ingredients or additive-free items.


top 21 restaurant trends of 2021

2 - QR codes.

Paper menus can be unsafe when there is a global pandemic on the rise. By using QR codes, restaurants have found a safer way to protect their menus, and the people who use them.


The great news is that QR codes are all-encompassing. They cover menus, restaurant history, delivery terms, and many more. So when people are deciding on a meal, they also have the opportunity to learn a little more.

A QR Code Generator allows the restaurant to utilize one code at different times and for multiple purposes.


3 - Focus on mental health

Mental well-being has been emphasized over and over, especially with the impact of the pandemic. Medical research shows that nutrients in foods are key in maintaining good cognitive and mental health.

There’s no arguing against the fact that a malnourished body can have dangerous and lasting consequences. Recently, restaurants began to employ products high in healthy fats and protein that can help consumers overcome depression, improve their moods, and reduce anxiety.

With continuous demand for the preservation of mental health, this trend and many other lifestyle food trends are definitely here to stay.


4 - Pop-up restaurants.

Pop-up restaurants have been around since the 2000s and have been gaining in popularity. They are temporary restaurants that can be operated from food trucks, former factories, private homes, or even existing restaurants.

The pop-up trend is one that restaurants are learning to accept. While pop-ups can be demanding, the payoff can be pleasingly high.  A pop-up restaurant can take any form - its exclusivity is what will drive its success.

A pop-up setting offered restaurants a chance to bounce back from the impact of the pandemic, by opening temporary outlets while the main restaurant was closed. 

restaurant trends

5- Ghost kitchens. 

A ghost kitchen is a kitchen that functions just from a kitchen, and with no space for dining. Before the pandemic hit, 80% of restaurants operated as dine-ins. However, the impact of COVID-19 forced the contrary.

Ghost kitchens incur lower overhead costs, allow only food delivery, and have no need for service staff. All ghost kitchens have to really invest in is in ensuring their website is top-notch and that they have an effective POS system.

Off-premises have become the new norm as restaurants are relying more and more on deliveries and takeouts.


restaurant trends 2021

6 - Meal kits.

Meal kits are one of the great restaurant industry trends. After a survey, it was discovered that more than half of adults would purchase a meal kit being offered by their favorite restaurants. 

Meal kits comprise instructions and various pre-measured ingredients that will aid customers in replicating restaurant meals in the comfort of their homes.

75% of Gen Z adults and millennials upvoted meal kits as a trend worth trying out.

More than half of adults surveyed say they’d likely purchase a meal kit if it was offered by one of their favorite restaurants. That percentage rises to 75% for both millennials and Gen Z adults.


7 - Online presence.

With the advancement of technology, the majority of traditional physical service orders are now placed online. Customers liked it because of how convenient it was. About 88% of customers make reservations online while about 86% expect to have direct access to online menus also.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants relied heavily on online meal delivery services.  It was the only way they could stay open and follow the laws(No public gathering rules).

Because of these, restaurants have sought to stand out to portray an online reputation. The idea of a strong presence online is to bring ease as much as possible to customers even after the pandemic.

Customers are drawn to catchy websites. This particular trend reveals the need for restaurants to create a website and use catchy website designs to boost customer satisfaction. Ease of reservation should also be a key feature of restaurant websites.

top restaurant trends of 2021

8 - More diet-friendly meals.

In 2020, the restaurant industry witnessed a fall in demand as people went their way in search of healthier meals. Plates were swapped for bowls in the hope of healthier living. Restaurants have taken the hint by marking vegan options on their menus, serving smaller portions of food, and cooking foods on the spot to preserve freshness.

In 2021, it was noticeable that customers want healthier meals to suit their dietary and health needs. So restaurants in the industry are coming up with new items on their menus to offer plant-based and vegan options to customers.

top restaurant trends of 2021

9 - Environmental protection.

The past year taught us that not all restaurant trends are directly connected to food. The most sensitive issue in the industry is now the environment. Customers know that the restaurant industry is responsible for a significant proportion of plastic waste and water pollution. 

The industry now heeds to the use of green kitchens to reuse and recycle waste in pursuit of more environmentally friendly materials. In recent months many restaurants have made great achievements in terms of sustainability by reusing containers and bags, corn-based straws, or paper bags. 

In line with this, McDonalds announced their plan to take action in 2019, and set a goal of using only recycled and renewable materials for customer packaging by 2025.

10 - The comfort food restaurant trend.

Comfort foods are those types of foods that provide consolation or serve  some kind of nostalgic value. Comfort foods are often rich in sugar or carbohydrates.

Unless your restaurant is exclusively for the health-conscious customers, comfort foods on the menu are great attractions for customers with no health complications. Consumers also confirm that those restaurants that offer a good selection of comfort meals are more frequently chosen.


top restaurant trends of 2021

11- Non-alcoholic cocktails. 

With the risks of alcohol becoming more widely appreciated, Americans are choosing less harmful substances to consume. Restaurants have responded by serving non-alcoholic cocktails instead. This trend has called on bartenders to come up with new recipes for more pleasing cocktails and mocktails to suit changing customer tastes.

The continuation of this trend after 2021 is highly probable, considering the variety of mocktails being served at restaurants today.

12 -  Bundled meals.

Combining meals that would ordinarily be bought separately by a customer is known as meal bundling. Customers will be left with no other  choice but to purchase pre-packaged meals and avoid the burden of making repeated orders. This will increase your profits while also increasing consumer satisfaction.

This is one of the most creative of all the restaurant  trends in 2021. Customers can consume a variety of meals from the restaurant thanks to this concept, as package meals combine numerous complementing foods.


top restaurant trends of 2021

13 - Variety of meals.

This trend is one of the recurring restaurant industry trends. It works hand in glove with a streamlined menu. A streamlined menu is not devoid of meal variety, rather it keeps it simple and comprehensive.


Restaurants are currently hiring more staff that can whip up new meals. This spontaneity is most likely going to stay in 2021.

top restaurant trends of 2021


14 - The self-service restaurant trend.

During the pandemic, keeping and paying restaurant staff was difficult. Companies like IHOP, Farmer’s Fridge, and 7-11 made moves to secure vending machines and self-service bars to reduce the queues at their restaurants.

McDonalds is another good example because of its automated self-service machines. Self-service is beneficial for cutting down the costs of a start-up.

top restaurant trends of 2021

15 - Selling groceries.

Restaurants have taken to selling groceries to save their consumers an extra trip. Customers will go any length to ensure that comfort is delivered at their doorpost.

Fortunately, restaurants are up to the task. Several restaurants have opened a grocery extension to their business. Customers not only eat to their full but also shop for their homes.


16 - Meal subscriptions.

Here’s another top trend in the restaurant industry trends. This trend involves customers signing up and preordering their special meals beforehand, at discounted prices. This is also a useful way for monitoring customer  preferences.

top restaurant trends of 2021

17- Upgraded kitchen operations.

Kitchen robots have been engaged in restaurants to help automate certain repetitive industry tasks. Moley and Cooki have been in the business of robot cooking since 2010. Imagine eating a sumptuous meal prepared by a robot chef.

Robochefs are the new deal! Technology is changing meal preparation. AI-powered machines are being built up to cook all kinds of delicacies.

Wondering what robots can achieve more than humans in the kitchen? Here’s a list.

  • Cooking and assembling 4000 burgers per hour.
  • They've been programmed to expedite the food preparation procedure. These robots could assist with tasks such as cutting onions, carrots, and tomatoes, among other things.
  • Cooking with very high quality, cleanliness, and top-notch taste quality.

the top restaurant trends of 2021


18 - A taste of home. 

=When the pandemic hit, restaurants became more creative than ever through the fusion of cuisines. Since people could not travel to their home countries, restaurants tried to bring home to customers’ doorsteps. 

Traditional and cross-cultural cuisines were explored. Options like Mexican-Korean, Chinese Peruvian cuisines were meals for exploration. This was a very significant trend in 2021.


19 - Integrated technology.

Technology is the new dawn in the restaurant industry. It helps you keep your brand relevant, and it helps you manage your store effortlessly. Recently, the most effective tool used by restaurants for staying relevant are workforce management solutions that are integrated with the POS systems.  Providing transparency like never before. 

Using a system like this allows restaurant owners to manage their stores remotely, as well as pull sales vs labor forecasts to make smart scheduling decisions that come in handy during times of thin margins. 


top restaurant trends of 2021

20 - Locally sourced foods.

Our health depends on the quality of foods we cook and eat. Global events keep pointing to why locally sourced foods are the future.


In addition to the cost of sourcing foods from outside your city, state, or country, these “outside foods” may have lost their freshness by the time they reach you. In 2021, restaurants in the industry are taking as much advantage as they can of foods available locally, especially when these foods are in season.

Good things come in fresh and in time. 

restaurant trends of 2021

21 - A rise in delivery services.

Restaurant delivery sales have been predicted to rise at a 22% compound rate for the next four years. 2020 and 2021 intensified delivery services even more as the pandemic kept many customers away for a long time.

Before, many restaurants engaged third-party delivery companies to run all their deliveries. However, restaurants quickly realized that third-party delivery services were costing them much more than they budgeted. How difficult could setting up a personal delivery service be? 

UberEats
charges up to 30% to the company for each delivery. In a survey, 84% of restaurant owners affirmed that this fee is way above what they expected and that it eats deeply into their profits. Because of this, restaurant owners are becoming wiser in 2021.

Beginning a delivery service for your restaurant is not an uphill task. Carefully make the decision as to whether or not you really need the services of a third-party delivery service. If not, develop an independent system of your own and strive to integrate your POS system with your delivery apps to track your orders effectively. 

Conclusion

These 21 restaurant trends of 2021 should help you reflect on the year behind us, and perhaps even make accurate predictions about the future. It’s important to learn the trends, because restaurants aim to meet their customers' demands at all times in order to maintain their consumer base. So what do you think? Are you trending?

Be sure to share this article if you found it helpful - and if you are looking for technology to help your restaurant succeed, download our free guide below!

top restaurant trends of 2021




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