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How the COVID-19 Pandemic Changed the Restaurant Industry Forever


It's undeniable that the COVID-19 pandemic caused a massive disruption to the restaurant industry. According to the National Restaurant Association, about 90,000 American restaurants remain closed due to the crisis. Other experts estimate years for the restaurant industry to bounce back to where it was pre-pandemic. But don’t let that news get you down. While it's true that in-person dining will take some time to return to its previous levels, other aspects of the restaurant industry are already experiencing massive growth. In some cases, they've already reached levels never seen before.

For the savvy restaurant owner or food industry investor, right now may be a great time to get in on one of these niche areas experiencing growth. After all, people never stopped eating, they just found new ways to get their favorite foods. Now that the pandemic is winding down, these behaviors have become social norms, changing the face of dining forever. Let’s look at some changes for the good likely here to stay, even as the pandemic fades into the past.


Outdoor Dining


COVID-19 was found to spread easier in tight, crowded, and unventilated spaces. One of the first adaptations restaurants of all sizes made was implementing more outside dining. Restaurants all over the country overflowed onto sidewalks and, in some cases, even took over public parks, plazas, and streets. In several major cities, including San Francisco, entire sections of the urban streetscape were closed to traffic to make room for more pedestrian social distancing. Many of these spaces were creatively utilized by restaurants, cafes and bars to add more outdoor seating.

But the truth is that outdoor dining isn't just an emergency measure. Many European cities, for example, have long used sidewalks and other public spaces to not merely expand seating for their often tightly cramped quarters, but also provide customers with the romantic experience of al fresco ("open air") dining. That’s right, many people actually prefer outside seating to being inside a dining room. Some restaurants with nice patios or sidewalk seating frequently experience waiting list lengths that double or triple those for their indoor dining spaces. Outdoor dining has been with us for thousands of year, but in the post-Covid world, it looks like it's going to be an even greater mainstay feature of restaurant life. And that’s a good thing.


The Rise of Ghost Kitchens


The pandemic caused a massive shift in eating patterns from dining out to staying in, forcing many restaurants to completely close their dining rooms. But many of the savviest restaurant owners didn't close down for good. Instead, they doubled down on their kitchens and concentrated on delivery, even if they had to pick up and move to a lower rent physical space to do so. They soon found that ghost kitchens have potentially lower operating costs than traditional restaurants, with just as much opportunity for high sales and large profits.

According to a report by Euromonitor, ghost kitchens are poised to become a $1 trillion global market by 2030. That’s not very far away folks. Many still think of ghost kitchens as a sort of second-class phenomenon within the restaurant industry. At the end of the day, it's the food itself that's the final measuring stick for any business in this space. Restaurants that operate solely as ghost kitchens and tap into the huge delivery market can not only build a solid repeat customer base if they produce a high-quality product, but also significantly cut a lot of their operating costs. That adds up to a win-win situation, pointing to the fact that ghost kitchens are here to stay.


Individualized and Pre-packaged Over Catered


One of the most hard-hit segments of the food and beverage industry has undeniably been catering. In addition to people having fewer large gatherings in their private homes, traditional office life has changed dramatically too. Many employees now work from home, meaning that casual Friday afternoon catered affair is simply not going to happen again anytime soon. In place of large catered events, a new industry focused on individual food needs popped up: pre-packaged food.


Home-based workers or small family units that desire food delivered don't want chefs and wait staff coming to their home office or house. Instead, they demand as much selection and variation as possible when it comes to choosing meals already arranged. From combination dinners designed for families to set meal plans for those on specific diets and exercise routines, the individualized pre-packaged meal is highly sought after in this new post-pandemic reality. Restaurant or kitchen owners who choose to focus on this hidden in plain sight demographic also stand to raise their fortunes considerably.


Contactless Pay


Developed as a safety measure during the pandemic, contactless pay proved to save valuable time for customers. They were able to pre-order their menu items, even before being seated, and pay their bill without having to wait for the check. Because customers want contactless pay, most restaurants will probably keep it long after the pandemic disappears in the rear-view mirror. It also makes tracking payment histories easier for both restaurants and customers. As a result, the method will likely become a standard option, if not the preferred method of ordering for many in the future.


High Tech Software Systems


Because the pandemic brought new challenges to restaurant owners on many levels, including keeping their employees safe, many new technological solutions were introduced to replace already outdated manually intensive systems. One of the most prominent is tip distribution software. This ensures every employee is paid fairly, yet doesn't require sharing cash or excessive paperwork tracking systems.


TipHaus is a leader in this game-changing technology. Our exclusive software solution gives restaurant owners and managers unprecedented insights into tip pooling and sharing, yet allows employees greater control and oversight of their own earnings tracking. Employees can even send money back and forth to each other through the app and spend their tips through a special debit card.

Sound enticing? Contact us today for a demonstration of how TipHaus can enhance your restaurant or food industry business!


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