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Restaurant Trends in the Post COVID-19 Era

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Topics: Restaurants, Infographics

August 4, 2020

2020 was predicted to be an interesting year for restaurants, with sales expected to hit $899 billion this year, customer trends gravitating towards dine-in experiences that were unique, interactive and elevated, and expectations that restaurants would not only make more sustainable choices but also catch up with Gen Z’s ever growing demand for technology.

The pandemic hit and suddenly, all bets were off. Restaurants across the nation shuttered down, and even when they did reopen, it wasn’t business as usual. Intimate, dine-in experiences were no longer an option, and customer safety took precedence over everything else. Restaurant owners were expected to reevaluate their strategy, adhere to a new set of rules and regulations, and adapt to the new demands rising from customers.

While some of 2020’s predicted trends are relevant even in the post COVID-19 era, several new patterns have emerged, and along with them, the opportunity for restaurants to adapt and find ways to survive and thrive.

Here are 5 of the biggest restaurant trends to look out for in the post COVID-19 era:


1. Investing in New Technology

While it might seem counterintuitive to be spending money now, for many businesses, now is actually the perfect time to invest in new technology that improves efficiency and opens new revenue streams. Why now? Because there’s a good chance that you’re dealing with fewer on-premise customers and perhaps even have employees with down time. 

Contactless Payments
Contactless is here to stay with 74% of people saying they will continue to use contactless payments post-pandemic.

Note: If you are using any of SpotOn’s point-of-sale systems or payment terminals, then yes, you are already set up to accept contactless payments, including Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, and FitBit Pay.

Dine-In Ordering
Dine-In Ordering service allows customers to come to your restaurant, scan a QR code at the table, and then order and pay right from their phone, without ever having to touch a menu or a credit card. The new technology is perfect for restaurants adapting to COVID-19 restrictions.

It’s also built for the future of your restaurant beyond the pandemic with time-saving features for both your staff and your customers—without requiring the purchase of expensive table kiosks or other hardware.

2. The Rise of Ghost Kitchens

Also known as commissaries or cloud kitchens, ghost kitchens have gained a lot of popularity of late. Here’s why:
  • For every 5 consumers in the U.S., 3 order delivery or takeout at least once a week, and that number has only increased since COVID-19
  • Euromonitor recently predicted ghost kitchens could be a $1 trillion market by 2030, and others say ghost kitchens could displace as much as 50 percent of in-restaurant volume as soon as 2022
  • A major chunk of the population is still reluctant to dine-in, and with restaurants being expected to operate at less than 50% capacity, ghost kitchens are becoming more popular by the day

What is a Ghost Kitchen?
A Ghost Kitchen is a professional cooking facility set up for the preparation of delivery-only meals. It has no dining area for walk-in customers.

3. Integrated Online Ordering

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurant digital orders were growing by 23% annually. With restaurants having to adapt to off-premise dining over the last several months, that number is sure to skyrocket in 2020, just as we’ve seen the adoption rate for contactless payments jump.

With profit-margins already razor thin and no end in sight for when business will return to normal, relying solely on third-party services and their commission fees of 25% or more is too costly. The smarter solution is having customers order directly from you with integrated online ordering. By incorporating the right technology and keeping everything in-house, you’ll not only be able to get through the tough times now, but also be poised for unparalleled revenue growth when the coronavirus outbreak is over.
“SpotOn’s ability to create an online ordering system on our website has provided efficiency and the ability to maintain social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a very tough time for restaurants, SpotOn has gone above and beyond.”

-Kevin Youkilis, former Major League Baseball star,
owner of Los Gatos, CA-based Loma Brewing Company,
and SpotOn Restaurant Advisory Board Member

4. Simpler Menus and More Zero Waste Items

With restaurants operating at less than 50% capacity, and with fewer staff members at work, simpler menus are a great way to cut down on costs and increase efficiency. At this time, conservation of cash is crucial, and by promoting more popular items and simplifying the menu, restaurant operators can do exactly that.

Less Is More
Shrinking the menu allows restaurants to order ingredients in bulk and achieve better economies of scale. And because restaurants remove their least popular or more expensive items, the changes may impact a relatively small number of customers.

5. At Home Experiences

Before the pandemic struck, restaurant-goers were looking forward to more unique and elevated dine-in experiences, with 75% willing to spend extra on a one-of-a-kind meal. With COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing guidelines, this may not be possible when patrons are dining in, but restaurant owners can get creative with home delivery items.

DIY Meal Kits
DIY Meal Kits come with pre-portioned ingredients and allow diners to recreate a restaurant quality meal at home. They’re becoming increasingly popular, as it eliminates the possibility of deliveries arriving cold or roughed-up in transit. An online video or an explanation sheet accompanied with the kit provides step-by-step instructions.

Not yet partnered with SpotOn? Get your free personalized demo and see how we can help set your restaurant up for success during and after COVID-19: www.SpotOn.com/restaurants 


  1. https://www.foodandwine.com/fwpro/restaurants-after-covid19-coronavirus-chef-predictions
  2. https://www.hotelmanagement.net/food-beverage/5-dining-trends-for-a-post-covid-world
  3. https://www.qsrmagazine.com/consumer-trends/when-covid-19-ends-heres-how-restaurants-will-win
  4. https://thespoon.tech/the-spoon-plus-guide-to-ghost-kitchens/
  5. https://thespoon.tech/webinar-ghost-kitchens-poised-to-become-a-1t-market-by-2030/
  6. https://reformingretail.com/index.php/2019/12/17/ghost-kitchens-could-soon-displace-50-of-restaurant-volume-heres-why/
  7. https://www.wrcbtv.com/story/42283748/restaurant-menus-are-getting-smaller-during-the-pandemic-heres-what-some-big-chains-are-dropping

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