It seems like a long time ago that restaurant guests would gather around big tables at restaurants and share overflowing platters of food, family-style. But doesn’t that sound great after months of eating at home and away from groups? As we ease back into gatherings, your menu can safely promote the sense of community that people have been missing. Consider offering some comforting appetizers and entrées that can be shared. You might provide individual serving spoons to promote safety or serve up individual portions tableside.
Even as the pandemic looks to be winding down, consumers will likely hold on to some habits and patterns they adopted in the past year – working from home more often, for example, or flexing their meal schedule. As a result, restaurant operators may see a need to blend their day parts by extending their breakfast menu beyond the morning hours or developing new dishes that can work at various times of day. Blending day parts can help kitchens make the most of their inventory by spreading it out farther – and simply give guests more reasons to order throughout the day.
At a time when restaurant operators feel the need to do as much as possible with a simplified inventory of ingredients, the way you build and present a dish carries extra weight – and can make your restaurant that much more appealing to people eager to try a creative dish right now. Are there dishes on your menu that you could improve simply by presenting them in a surprising format? Before you swap out a menu item that isn’t as popular as you expected it might be, ask if it’s ripe for reinvention.
Omnichannel eating is a top foodservice trend of 2021. That’s according to the recently released annual food and beverage trends report from Innova Market Insights. Based on how Covid has changed people’s daily habits in the past year, it’s easy to see why the need to accommodate omnichannel eating is important for operators – and could be for the long term: More people are working from home or away from the office, they may be working on different schedules than before, and these changes could be permanent. According to McKinsey & Co. forecasts, between 20 and 25 percent of the workforces in advanced economies like the U.S. could work from home between three and five days each week after Covid. As a result, the conventional day-part meal structure in restaurants may need to evolve with it as consumers demand food when and where they want it. Restaurants will continue to be valued not only as places to eat out or order takeout, but also as providers of meal kits, meal segments, branded products or specialty ingredients that can elevate meals prepared by consumers at home. Much like grocery stores have evolved in recent years, restaurants may need to do the same well after the pandemic is over – and embrace the different ways people now consume food and beverage.
It’s salad season. As the weather warms and your choice of fresh produce expands, your salad menu is likely to become all the more craveable as people seek out healthy eating options. Your dressings have the power to elevate those dishes with smooth, creamy textures and savory, sweet or spicy flavors. They can also make your salad more special than something a guest would prepare at home. It’s a bonus if your dressings can contribute to the health of the overall dish – raising protein content, boosting immunity or promoting heart health, for example, without overloading it with empty calories.
As much as people are eager to gather again and celebrate with food and drink, the transition back to bustling restaurant dining rooms packed with patrons could take some more time. This could be an especially creative time for operators and chefs, who can make their menu more of a spectacle than before – something that is best appreciated in a restaurant dining room and is impossible to replicate in a take-away bag. As you welcome guests back, consider assembling, cooking or adding finishing touches to dishes tableside to create fresh, exciting dining room experiences that will entice people to come back with friends.