New habits and trends in the post-COVID sector: an opportunity for restaurants to reinvent themselves

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the restaurant industry, altering consumer habits and expectations. Restaurants had to adapt quickly to address the crisis, introducing delivery and take-out options, strengthening safety and hygiene measures, and rethinking their offerings. How can restaurants adjust to meet these changes?

Shifts in Consumption and Distribution Patterns: The Rise of Dark Kitchens

One of the most significant changes in the restaurant industry is the rise of dark kitchens, also known as ghost kitchens. Dark kitchens are kitchens dedicated solely to the production of takeout and delivery dishes, without a public-facing dining area. These kitchens are often located in industrial areas or less busy neighborhoods and are designed to maximize the efficiency of takeout meal production.

Dark kitchens saw a substantial surge during the pandemic, as consumers leaned more towards takeout and delivery to minimize contact and reduce contamination risks. Dark kitchens also offer advantages for restaurateurs, cutting down costs associated with setting up and running a traditional restaurant and enabling faster and more efficient dish production.

Competing with Dark Kitchens

Traditional restaurants must find ways to compete with this new offering. Incorporating delivery or order pick-up into a traditional restaurant setup allows them to remain competitive and offers numerous advantages:

  • Increased Sales: By providing delivery or order pick-up options, restaurateurs can reach a broader audience and boost their sales. Customers can place orders from their homes or workplaces, presenting an opportunity for restaurants to attract new patrons who might not have visited in person.
  • Space Maximization: Traditional restaurants are often constrained by the available space to accommodate dine-in patrons. By offering delivery or order pick-up, they can maximize the use of their space by reducing the number of tables and seating required.
  • Cost Reduction: Restaurants can cut down on costs associated with the setup and operation by offering delivery or pick-up options. There’s no need to allocate significant dining space, and they can reduce expenses related to service staff.
  • Flexibility for Customers: Offering delivery or pick-up gives customers greater flexibility, allowing them to place orders anytime, even outside the restaurant’s operating hours.
  • Customer Loyalty: By providing a delivery or pick-up service, restaurateurs can foster customer loyalty by offering a more convenient ordering experience and catering to their needs.

Another Path to Growth: Pursuing Socially Engaged Projects

Consumers are increasingly looking to support businesses that operate responsibly, use local and sustainable products, reduce food waste, or are involved in social or environmental initiatives.

This presents an opportunity for restaurants to differentiate themselves by undertaking socially engaged projects and communicating their commitments to customers. Restaurants can also partner with local initiatives or social and environmental projects to amplify their positive impact and appeal.

Examples of Committed and Engaging Projects

  1. Refettorio Felix, London: This restaurant is led by the renowned Italian chef Massimo Bottura and offers free meals to individuals facing social hardships. The restaurant is also actively involved in reducing food waste and uses surplus high-quality ingredients to prepare the meals.
  2. Blue Hill, New York: Blue Hill is committed to promoting sustainable, local, and ethical eating. They collaborate with local producers to source quality ingredients and strive to reduce their carbon footprint by adopting sustainable production practices.
  3. Dans le noir?, Paris: This restaurant offers a unique dining experience by inviting guests to enjoy their meal in total darkness, raising awareness about visual impairment and the importance of other senses in the food experience. The restaurant also employs visually impaired individuals to serve the customers.
  4. The Clink, London: Located within a high-security prison, this restaurant is managed by professional chefs and provides vocational training to inmates. The establishment helps prisoners gain professional skills, reducing the chances of reoffending upon their release.
  5. MOTHER, Copenhagen: MOTHER is a restaurant dedicated to promoting vegetarian and vegan diets and also supports local social projects. They partner with local producers to source fresh and seasonal ingredients and are committed to reducing their carbon footprint by minimizing plastic use and adopting sustainable practices.

As an experienced restaurant consultant, I firmly believe that restaurants reinventing themselves to align with post-COVID habits and trends stand a strong chance of long-term success. Those adopting innovative, differentiated, and responsible approaches are more likely to attract and retain customers seeking quality dining experiences while also making a positive impact on society and the environment.

If you’re a restaurant owner or manager looking to adapt to post-COVID habits and trends, I invite you to reach out to me to discuss crafting a strategy tailored to your business. As an experienced restaurant consultant, I can assist you in understanding consumer needs and expectations, designing a unique and responsible offering, and measuring the impact of your strategy on performance. The first 30 minutes of consultation are complimentary, helping you grasp how we can collaborate to ensure your success in this new post-COVID landscape.

A people-centric managerial approach and Lean management serving the restaurant industry.