As the year begins to draw to a close, it’s time to look back on the type of restaurants that have fared best in 2021 and think about why these particular kinds of eateries have flourished. Below we take a look at some of the most profitable restaurant trends of the year and dig a bit deeper to explore the secret of their success.
Very, Very Vegan
Veganism has been the game-changing food and lifestyle trend of the year, and it looks set to continue its reign. New vegan restaurants have come to prominence, while long-established businesses in the trade have begun to offer a partial, or even complete, vegan menu.
With the image of vegan food as drab, tasteless, and dull being long left in the dust, these types of menus are now widely celebrated as innovative, tastebud-tempting and in synch, ethically, with a growing concern for the planet and the animal life we share it with,
In the wake of the pandemic, many restaurants either began to offer outdoor seating areas for the first time or expanded their existing provision. It’s no surprise, then, with concerns for safety first and foremost on the priority list, that eateries incorporating large areas of outdoor seating did especially well in 2021.
The key to success for those most profitable businesses was the incorporation of high-quality outdoor restaurant furniture that followed through on the theme of the indoor dining space or was otherwise ‘branded’ to be a recognizable reflection of the restaurant’s aesthetic. This served to offer diners a cohesive, familiar experience, and with the fundamental changes brought about by the pandemic, familiarity was something that was likely to be appreciated by all of us.
Some of the most profitable restaurants of the last year were those that reacted to the pandemic by offering their customers a multitude of channels through which to each enjoy their food. As well as traditional on-site dining, eateries that also gave clients the opportunity to, for example, order take-out meals or arrange the delivery of a specially designed meal kit weathered 2021 extremely well indeed.
Other examples of the ways restaurants incorporated multi-channel elements into their operations included facilitating a range of online payment options and making digital versions of menus available cross-platform. These innovative approaches helped businesses to adapt to the changing world and continue to thrive within it.
Food As Theatre
The last year has seen the rise and rise of restaurants that endorse the concept of ‘eating as experience.’ A significant number of eateries lauded as the best of the year or that received a first-time Michelin star last month were those that have created an art form out of the business of going out for a meal.
Open kitchens have played a massive role in the most successful restaurants of 2021, with ‘chef’s tables’ – tables positioned specifically so diners can enjoy an unobstructed view into the kitchen – being increasingly incorporated into dining spaces. These prime seats are hot tickets, and reservation prices reflect this, which has helped both the air of prestigiousness and the bottom lines of those establishments choosing to offer them.
Tasting menus, too, have been a profitable way in which to elevate guests’ experience while showcasing the full creative magnificence of the chefs working in these innovative eateries. Restaurants that offer bespoke wine pairing services, too, are a feature of those that have survived and thrived over the last difficult year.
Decor, too, plays a fundamental role for establishments embracing the ‘food as theatre’ vibe. Custom restaurant booths, wall benches, artisan-crafted light fittings, retro leather-look padded barstools, and whitewashed brickwork are the kinds of styling elements that have all been used to fabulous effect in some of the most popular eateries operating right now.
Noticeable virtually across the board in the restaurant trade has been the streamlining of menus on offer. This makes sense given the challenging times that businesses, almost universally, have faced over the last eighteen months or so: a slimmed-down menu means greater efficiency, a focus on the most profitable dishes, and a chance to cut costs.
The social distancing that the pandemic has required means fewer cooks working in a kitchen at any one time. Downsizing the dishes on offer means that service time is less likely to be slowed down, and concentrating on guest favorites and the most profitable menu choices results in healthier margins and less waste, which has been key to the survival of those restaurants that have been successful over the last year.
Elevating Guest Experience
The one thing that all the above trends have in common is a concern to upgrade the experience of the guest. This can be through promoting convenience, maintaining the speed of service, providing the safest environment possible, or creating a holistic dining experience that goes well beyond the ordering and eating of food.
The ‘out of the box thinking’ that each of these trends demonstrates is a testament to how, even in the most testing of times, a creative, customer-centered approach can be the driving force in terms of achieving success…and very healthy profits.