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Trends to Watch in Restaurants

5 Trends to Watch in Restaurants

Maggie Kearns Francis

September 21, 2021

Customers have grown accustomed to take-out, curbside pick-up, and delivery options over the past 18 months. How can restaurants accommodate these preferences and attract customers back for a dine-in experience?


Here are some trends to watch as restaurants move towards the next normal.

TREND: In-Restaurant Experiences

In the last year, customers have grown accustomed to take-out, curbside pick-up, and delivery. What will get customers back into restaurants?


One study found 41% of restaurants are exploring special event initiatives to entice customers. These events may include personalized dining experiences, cooking classes, tasting events, and more. Restaurants must continue enhancing and delivering quality customer experiences to bring customers into restaurants.


A change in ambiance and floorplans provides customers a new space to discover. Giving patrons additional space can help them feel more comfortable during dine-in experiences. Over the last 18 months, customers have grown accustomed to additional dining space. Finally, creating a space for outdoor dining accommodates for adjusting customer preferences.

TREND: Ghost Kitchens

What are ghost kitchens? Ghost kitchens are food preparation operations housed within another restaurant or a separate delivery-only kitchen. A ghost kitchen has only a digital presence, no wait staff or dining room for customers. This phenomenon is gaining popularity throughout the country.


There are many benefits and opportunities to customers and restauranteurs alike:

  • Small restaurants gain access to commercial-grade kitchen space for a fraction of the cost
  • Restaurants can diversify their revenue streams by preparing other brands’ products
  • Restaurants can capitalize on under-utilized kitchen space
  • Established restaurants can test new menu items and new markets at a lower cost
  • Access to additional food delivery options, including brands that do not have local retail facilities

TREND: Mobile + Online Ordering

In 2021, mobile and online ordering capabilities are a must. As take-out, curbside pick-up, and delivery orders increase, these ordering options are expected. A user-friendly, seamless application makes your restaurant stand out from the rest. Include order customization features, add-on recommendations, and delivery specifications to enhance the customer’s ordering experience.


The digital ordering process might be the only interaction a customer has with a restaurant. It is important to deliver a positive experience during that singular interaction. Studies show most customers would rather support restaurants directly than use a third-party delivery app. Reinforce their decision by delivering a quality mobile and online ordering experience.

TREND: Accommodate Curbside Pick-Up

To manage increasing take-out orders, restaurants must streamline customer pick-up operations. Curbside pick-up is fully established as a customer preference. Creating a seamless experience for customers reinforces the convenience of pick-up. The high-quality customer service experience gives customers an additional reason to pick up their order instead of using a third-party delivery service.


One study found customers are more interested in curbside pick-up if the restaurant is within a 10-mile radius of their home. This route is potentially quicker than having their order delivered. Curbside pick-up provides convenience without the added cost of delivery. Restaurants can make it easy for customers to navigate pick-up with carefully planning a dedicated pickup space, parking, wayfinding signage, and traffic flow.

TREND: Improving Delivery

As customer preferences and delivery options change, restaurants have to rethink their delivery services. Delivery services offer convenience to customers but can impact a restaurant’s bottom line. A full-service restaurant may operate with a profit margin of 3-5 percent. Third-party delivery service fees can amount to around 30 percent. This has forced many restaurants to rethink delivery services.


Some restaurants have brought delivery services in-house, others prioritize take-out and pick-up orders. Improvements to delivery services may include:

  • Streamline back-of-house operations
  • Streamline mobile and online ordering
  • Improve order fulfillment accuracy
  • Speed of delivery
  • Invest in quality packaging for the orders

What’s next for restaurants?

Ready to get your restaurant onboard? Interested in hearing more? We have experts on board to make any of these trends and other innovative ideas a reality.


Let’s talk. Reach out to us at We’d love to hear from you.