4 Ways Restaurants Will Change Course in 2021

The global pandemic has forever changed the restaurant industry. It has forced restaurateurs to think creatively about their restaurant strategy — from what they serve, to how they serve it, and how to market their business so that customers keep coming back.

While some of the restaurant strategy changes we’ve witnessed with the arrival of COVID-19 may be temporary (i.e. bubble tents), others, like curbside pickup, are undoubtedly here to stay.

As we move into this new era of restaurant dining, there are a few key ways that restaurateurs will be changing their restaurant strategy in 2021.

covid-19 restaurant strategy

Takeout & Delivery

Many restaurants that didn’t offer takeout or delivery before the pandemic have had to adopt a hybrid model in order to survive. And even those restaurants that already had takeout and delivery on lock, have had to come up with ways to enhance the customer experience for to-go and delivery.

While restaurant takeout and delivery require additional costs and creativity, like branded packaging, third-party delivery services, and alcoholic beverages to go, they’ve become par for the course. From user-friendly mobile apps to third-party delivery services, restaurants have had to do a lot more with less in order to stay relevant and competitive.

This includes the rising popularity of ghost kitchens, or delivery-only restaurant concepts. It’s certainly challenging to create a meaningful connection with customers without a storefront, but more and more restaurant owners are proving it to be a viable alternative with strategic virtual kitchen branding.

outdoor restaurant strategy

Outdoor Dining

Dining alfresco is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity. As such, restaurant owners have had to freshen up and maximize their outdoor dining space to accommodate customers.

Some outdoor dining upgrades are practical, like spaced-out tables to help with social distancing, and heat lamps for when the temperature drops. Other upgrades are meant to convey the brand and improve the customer experience, like adding string lights and plant life for ambiance.

As the weather gets colder, some restaurant owners have even gone so far as to construct specially vented private dining pods and igloos to attract customers. (Just remember: Airflow patterns are key to safe dining.)

innovative restaurant strategy

Contactless & Curbside

In an effort to reduce the spread of germs, many restaurant owners have minimized points of physical contact. Some restaurants have eliminated high-touch areas altogether, including buffets and salad bars. Others are offering new meal pickup options, digital menus, and mobile pay, in addition to creating impactful food delivery experiences.

Rather than passing around physical menus, many restaurants are utilizing QR codes and inviting customers to scan and view the menu on their smartphones. Customers can also use their phones to pay for their meal without interacting with a cashier or traditional pay station.

mobile ordering

Curbside pickup for to-go orders has become the norm during the pandemic and will continue to be utilized by restaurants for the foreseeable future. Not only does this service enable people to get their food quickly and easily, but it also minimizes exposure to the virus.

restaurant visual direction


Restaurant Branding Strategy

Without an ambiance and smiling staff, restaurateurs are having to lean heavily on their restaurant brand foundation to establish and maintain a connection with customers. When the visual direction, positioning statement, and brand story are clearly communicated through every customer touch point—from packaging to social media—customers can feel the heart and soul of the brand.

Ghost kitchens, in particular, are using bold branding to build customer loyalty. When properly executed, cohesive restaurant branding can unite a website, app, menu, packaging, serviceware, social media, and more into one powerful, engaging, and Instagrammable experience for customers.

restaurant mobile app

buns and dums

The additional use of personalized messaging and loyalty programs can drive traffic and digital orders for restaurants in ways they never thought possible pre-pandemic.

Need a New Restaurant Strategy?

We know that times are especially tough for restaurants. If you’re a restaurant owner looking for creative ways to attract new customers and maintain a connection with your current customer base, you’ve come to the right place.

As a strategy-first restaurant branding agency, we know what it takes to break through the noise and grow your business, even in the face of adversity. We have restaurant industry experience and branding expertise to support you in 2021 and beyond. Let us know how we can help your restaurant!

For more restaurant branding ideas and tips for navigating these uncertain times, follow Nice Branding Agency on LinkedIn and Instagram.

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