Top Restaurant Industry Trends to Know for 2020

Two industry experts discuss the new year’s key restaurant industry trends. 

The restaurant industry had a hectic and rather complicated 2019. Restaurant owners and operators faced a number of challenges last year, from an unprecedented labor shortage to changing consumer expectations and the continued advancement of new technology. On top of those issues, restaurateurs also dealt with increasing food costs and the operational questions presented by third-party delivery.

In light of these changes, what should operators prepare for as we head into 2020? Fourth Co-Founder and Chief Customer Officer David Cantu recently joined Fred LeFranc, CEO of Results Thru Strategy, on a webinar to discuss the big trends that operators need to be aware of going into the new year. Let’s take a look.

The Importance of Location

As shopping mall traffic declines and more malls close their doors, restaurateurs will need to be very thoughtful about where they open new stores.

“Mall traffic is down thanks to the Amazon effect,” LeFranc said. “I think we’re going to see this more and more because there are just too many restaurants overall… People are opting to stay at home and watch Netflix while having dinner from their favorite restaurant. For operators, there’s a big opportunity here to say how can we invent an environment that’s going to be compelling enough for them to leave their sofa?”

At the end of the day, restaurateurs can experiment with new recipes and test out new marketing campaigns to drive traffic, but moving the restaurant isn’t an option.

“You can change the menu, you can change management but you cannot change your location,” LeFranc said. “If malls are no longer en vogue, you need to try to find some other places, and you need to be very careful about that.”

Consumer Demands Will Continue to Change

Consumers know they can have the food they want, when they want, where they want. But it’s not just delivery forcing restaurants to adjust — millennial and Gen Z customers are also presenting businesses with new challenges and, if handled correctly, new opportunities for growth.

In a recent survey of 2,000 millennials, almost 60 percent said they follow some kind of specialty diet, whether it be vegan, keto, or Whole 30.

“These customers are more conscious of what they’re putting in their bodies,” Cantu said. “For those brands who are focused on menu innovation to be able to serve a broader base, they’re the ones seeing great success today and attracting the millennial and the power of the dollar behind them.”

A Renewed Focus on Culture

With the industry’s staggering turnover rate, Cantu and LeFranc agreed that brands need to take a good look at their cultures and embody their core missions and values, because it’s what employees expect.

“We can no longer accept over 100 percent turnover as an industry. It’s just not sustainable,” LeFranc said. “People are our most important asset.”

One way to let employees know their value is to offer them flexibility in scheduling and opportunities for learning and development, Cantu said.

“We’ve always known that scheduling flexibility is an important aspect, but it’s become more important than ever,” he said. “If your restaurant doesn’t have the tools to do that, your employees will leave for a place that does.”

But beyond the tools to allow work-life balance, employees also want to feel like they are part of a larger whole.

“If you can provide your employees a work environment where they have a sense of meaning and a connection to a higher purpose, not just a paycheck but a purpose, you will retain those employees,” LeFranc said.

Watch the full on-demand webinar below for more valuable insights!

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