Trends in the Restaurant Industry Post Covid

The F&B industry is the largest employment sector in India with a workforce of more than 70 lakh people. It accounts for nearly 3% of the total GDP of India. However, in a post-pandemic world, with Covid-19 riding the second wave in the country, this sector has been one of the hardest hit.

The National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) has estimated that the $50 billion restaurant industry may incur losses up to $9 billion in the year 2020 due to the closure of thousands of restaurants across the country.

However, the industry has been quick to spring back on its feet by adapting to a post-Covid world. It has done this by getting on the digital bandwagon. They have had to shift from the 100% “dining out’’ approach to one that is 50% dining in or exclusively ‘’ordering in’’. The fear of the Covid-19 virus has led people to become even more health-conscious than before, so hygiene standards too have levelled up. Digital menus and contactless payments have become widespread.

Let’s take a more in-depth look at the latest trends in the restaurant industry post-Covid. These are new practices that have to be adopted or have evolved to keep up with the changing requirements of these times.

Hygiene and sanitation

This is probably the single most important factor that will inspire customers to order from a restaurant, whether they are dining in or ordering in. However, it’s not enough to just implement the highest hygienic standards in a restaurant. Online communication of this that reaches the target audience is equally important.

Many food delivery aggregators have started mentioning the hygiene standards of a restaurant on their mobile app platform. Such restaurants often get more customers and more ratings too.

Apart from this, frequent health and safety audits are also important. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) recently released a 48-point checklist for restaurants. It would greatly increase a restaurant’s visibility if they comply with this checklist and promote it on their social media platforms too.

All F&B outlets have put thermal screening in place for their employees as well as customers, it taking orders for dining in. Even food delivery apps or food aggregators conduct regular thermal screening of their delivery agents. Disinfecting and sanitizing surfaces frequently also has to be done in order to maintain the highest hygiene standards. Once again, it is important to communicate to customers that these measures have been put into place. The best place to do this would be through social media. This goes a long way in reassuring customers who would also recommend such restaurants to their social circle.

Contactless deliveries and digital payments

Contactless solutions for both deliveries and payments are now the norm. From digital menus to delivery through drones, everything is being experimented upon now for both customers and employees to feel safe and stay healthy. Chatbots are being deployed to interact with customers on digital platforms as the first line of interaction in case of any complaints.

Social distancing and dining

Even when restaurants slowly start opening up, they would have to adopt a 50% operational model initially in order to ensure social distancing. This means new ways of interacting with customers have to be implemented such as online pre-ordering and reservation on mobile apps or through direct customer calls before they visit the venue. Efficient waitlist management will also have to be learnt in order to ensure that customers are retained.

Cloud kitchens and home chefs

With the IT sector encouraging Work from Home (WFH) and educational institutions likely to continue online classes, people are turning to ordering food more often in order to meet the challenges of working from home, often for longer hours than if they had to commute to work! This had led to an increase in the demand for healthy and hygienic food that is closest in taste to home-cooked food. Home chefs and cloud kitchens have popped up in large numbers as a response to this demand.

The cloud kitchen model is being preferred by most restaurants in order to survive the pandemic as it is more cost-effective in terms of infrastructure. For those who run a chain of restaurants, one kitchen could even be used to serve multiple locations. Chefs who have established a brand name for themselves are preferring to run delivery restaurants from their cloud kitchens.

Cloud kitchens help restaurant owners to save on rental costs and employee costs when walk-in customers are less or not possible. A tie-up with a food delivery aggregator can help boost food orders serve customers in various locations without worrying about the logistics.

Restaurants that are retaining their on-site locations are also exploring the potential for drive-through or pickup-window options for customers.

Changes in the food menu

Restaurants are adapting their food menu to curate for the WFH crowd, such as salads, vegan food, organic food, protein shakes, keto meals, daily meals, etc. DIY home food kits that guide you to create your own gourmet meals or everyday meals in a jiffy are also becoming very popular.

There is also a shift from buffet options and bulk portions to dining at home and single-serve portions. This means that restaurants will do well to re-examine their portion sizes and prices. If people are not able to get together with their friends for a pizza, for example, but are only able to meet over a video call, it would make business sense to offer the option of buying a single-slice pizza rather than a whole pizza. Such innovative offers would draw in more customers while ensuring brand recall and safety.

Wider adoption of technology

It is impossible to survive in a post-pandemic world without the adoption of the latest technological advances, whether it is online ordering, live tracking, digital menu, digital payments, or online reservations. Restaurants will have to invest in software to manage orders, inventory, employee schedules, reservations for dine-in, or bookings for food orders. Customers have to be provided with customer service as well as digital payment options that ensure no contact. Live-tracking of food deliveries also goes a long way to assuage a hungry customer’s enquiries too!

Another tech trend that restaurateurs are hopping onto is that of F&B specific web-development service providers such as Thrive Now, Urban Piper, and DotPe. These help restauranteurs to build their own website and mobile app and get orders directly from clients, thereby bypassing delivery aggregators. However, restaurants have found that it is challenging to drive customers directly to their websites without the help of these aggregators.

Food delivery aggregators

In a post-pandemic world, the F&B industry’s best friend would have to be food delivery aggregators. They take the stress out of the logistics of booking orders and delivering food, enabling chefs or restaurant owners to focus on the creativity and business of food instead. Tying up with leading food delivery aggregators also helps in increasing brand exposure and expands the reach of the restaurant to even more people.

The trends listed here show how responsive and smart the F&B industry has been in adapting to the challenges of a post-pandemic world. Adopting these strategies will go a long way in helping to surf these waves and keep the business thriving no matter how stormy it gets.

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