As we find ourselves at the beginning of a new year, it’s time to explore the top restaurant industry predictions for 2024. With each passing year, new trends, technologies, and societal changes shape the way we dine out. In 2023, the restaurant industry saw promising growth with a 6.4% increase in revenue, along with a 10.4% decrease in turnover rates. Although the industry is finally making strides to shift away from the pandemic setbacks, restaurateurs should brace themselves for new trends and challenges.
In this article, we’ll be diving into the top predictions that are set to define the restaurant industry in 2024. Come take a peek into the future of the industry!
There's no doubt that technology has made a significant impact on our day-to-day lives, and the restaurant industry is no exception to this tech takeover. We’re expecting to see more restaurants implementing more technologically advanced processes and systems.
Since the release of ChatGPT in early 2023, we’ve seen a massive influx of AI and automation technologies being developed to compete with it. Restaurant operators seem to be getting on board with this trend since 58% of them believe using tech and automation can alleviate labor shortages. Even though some technologies, such as self-serve kiosks, food delivery apps, and restaurant software, have been prevalent in the restaurant industry for some time now, we expect to see even more restaurants implement these platforms in 2024.
As the restaurant industry continues to face staffing challenges, robot staff that use AI technology and advanced algorithms can bring cost savings and efficiency to the table. Currently, the most common robots being used in restaurants are automated servers and chefs that handle routine activities. Using a robot server like the Matradee can unlock up to $64,500 in cost savings and 124% ROI in three years. Integrating robot staff in your restaurant can help maximize efficiency in your workforce by allowing human staff to focus on higher-value tasks while reducing labor costs.
For a restaurant operator who’s looking to maximize operational efficiency, predictive technology can be your best friend. AI-powered data analytics can help monitor several major areas of your restaurant business, such as inventory, labor, and customer experience. Considering that you can reduce inventory mistakes and overstocking by 17% if you implement inventory management software, this type of technology is worth the investment. Predictive tech uses algorithms that analyze factors such as historical data and seasonal trends to forecast demand, so you can run your restaurant business as efficiently as possible.
Customers are the heart of every restaurant business, which means that as consumer preferences change, restaurants need to adapt. Recently, we’ve seen several shifts in consumer preferences that are predicted to stick around for the upcoming year.
Lately, we’ve been seeing consumers shifting to healthier, higher-quality foods despite inflation trends. New dietary patterns and restrictions, such as vegan, plant-based, and gluten-free make consumers more conscious about their dietary choices. With this in mind, they’re willing to pay higher prices for premium foods, such as organic and natural ingredients. Considering that 52% of Americans followed a specialized diet in 2023, we expect to see the demand for healthier food continue to increase this upcoming year.
Solidified as part of American social norms in the early 1900s, tipping is something that most, if not all, of us are familiar with. Even though it’s deeply rooted in American customs, many people are starting to experience tipping fatigue with 2-in-3 adults having a negative view of tipping. Despite many people still tipping, we’re starting to see the amount depend on the quality of service and budget constraints, rather than the standard 15% to 20% tip amount. Restaurateurs should be prepared to see tipping continue to decrease in 2024.
Food delivery services got a nice boost during the pandemic, but busy lifestyles are still pushing demand sky-high for at-home convenience. Even though social distancing restrictions have eased significantly in 2023, the food delivery industry has grown by over 52% since the pandemic started. We don’t expect this demand to slow down anytime soon since the industry is forecasted to keep growing by 10.3% year-over-year between 2023 to 2030. For restaurants that haven’t hopped on this trend yet, 2024 could be your chance to take advantage of this growth opportunity.
Prioritizing exceptional service is more important than ever in 2024 with the surge of online reviews and social media platforms where customers can share their experiences. Providing a memorable customer experience can help keep your brand’s reputation strong in your community. Factoring in that after one negative experience, 51% of customers will never do business with that company again, it’s crucial that most, if not all, customers leave happy. Keep your business thriving this upcoming year by prioritizing good customer service to not only retain your loyal customers but also to attract new ones.
Since the pandemic, cash has been dethroned as contactless and cashless payments have become king in its place. Using contactless payment methods has the benefits of speed, convenience, and security. With 65% of customers preferring contactless payments, restaurants need to cater to consumer demand to avoid missing out on potential business. As the world shifts to incorporate more technology and convenience, contactless payment methods are here to stay.
Sometimes, there are factors that affect the restaurant industry that are out of anyone’s control, like economic factors. In these cases, the most that restaurateurs can do is try to mitigate the effects on the business by staying ahead of the curve.
These past few years, inflation has had an impact on all of us and the restaurant industry is no different. Inflation has hit the restaurant industry hard with increasing costs for most essentials, such as labor, overhead costs, and ingredients. It seems like most restaurant operators are feeling the pressure since 9 in 10 of them are concerned about food costs and inflation. These challenges make it increasingly difficult for restaurant operators to keep their businesses profitable while still keeping prices affordable for their customers. For the sustainability and success of the business, restaurateurs should plan ahead and brace themselves for higher operating costs in 2024.
Looking at the way that other successful restaurants run their business sheds some light on what operational shifts and trends we should be focusing on.
Ghost kitchens are a relatively new concept where restaurant operators can optimize their resources by focusing on online orders for delivery and takeout. There are different ways that a ghost kitchen can operate, including out of a warehouse or even from an existing restaurant. Ghost kitchens can unlock an additional 5% or more in profit by eliminating overhead costs associated with a dine-in space, front-of-house staff, and decor. The increased demand for food delivery and online orders allows ghost kitchens to reshape the restaurant industry as we know it.
Restaurant operators have been taking a turn for the better when it comes to team development and retention strategies. In the hospitality industry, choosing the right team is essential as they set the tone for your customer experience. In 2023, we saw the lowest turnover rate in the restaurant industry since 2017 with a rate of 74.7%. In comparison to the astronomical 132% turnover rate during the pandemic in 2020, the restaurant industry has been making great strides. These positive changes are expected to carry over into 2024, which is a welcomed change after restaurants had to face the added expenses of high turnover for the past few years.
The increased reliance on our technological devices means that digital marketing is a trend that’s here to stay. Nowadays, having a solid online presence can make or break your business. The numbers speak for themselves – 88% of patrons trust online reviews more than personal recommendations and 75% of people have used social media to decide on a restaurant. Creating a digital marketing plan in 2024 can help you unlock new customers and expand your reach further than you ever thought possible.
It’s fun to celebrate the holidays and the data shows that consumers were feeling festive by spending more on special occasions, like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, in 2023 than in 2022. Since the pandemic, we’ve seen a societal shift of people valuing more quality time with their friends and families, and we expect this trend to continue in 2024. This year, be prepared with holiday menus and promotions to appeal to those looking to celebrate.
A new year is always a great time to take on changes and welcome new trends. After bouncing back from the pandemic in 2023, the restaurant industry has proved itself to be more resilient than ever, and we expect it to continue its recovery in 2024. Despite challenges like inflation, new innovations are happening that are reshaping the restaurant industry as we know it. Don’t wait – jump in on the trends now to stay in the lead and unlock your restaurant’s growth potential.
If you’re looking for more predictions on the restaurant industry, download our 2024 State of the Industry Report. Most of the data from this article was sourced from our report to give restaurateurs data-backed insights into what’s to come in the industry.
“In the labor numbers, we were reporting about a $300 to $400 difference than what we were getting through Push!”
-Tara Hardie, ZZA Hospitality Group, 16 locations