April 2, 2020
Last November, we published our 2020 Trend Report, “We’re Not in Kansas Anymore: The New Hospitality Landscape.” (We had no idea how accurate this title would be….we are DEFINITELY not in Kansas, Toto.) In light of the major changes to how Americans are eating and drinking these days, we’ve put together a list of some of the things we think will impact the industry.
Shelf stable products like rice and pasta have been flying off the shelves. Thanks to a plethora of food media focused on “how-to” videos, people are rediscovering how to use a variety of dried beans. Plus, extra time at home means ambitious cooking projects become a way to pass the time, with edible rewards. People are tackling sourdough bread, handmade pasta, and all sorts of baked goods. From the consumer standpoint we expect many of these grocery standbys to exhibit real staying power; while in restaurants we may see some artistry and craft around these shelf stable products.
Comfort Foods Continue to Comfort
When times get tough people turn to comfort. Every culture has their own comfort foods to turn to. Historically in the US, this would have meant a return to meatloaf, mashed potatoes, stews, braises, fried or roasted chicken, even oozy cheeseburgers, and grilled cheese sandwiches. However, over the past few years, we have seen cross-cultural cuisine is taking new form as Americans adopt flavors from immigrant communities and as chefs pay tribute to their mixed race upbringings. The idea of “authentic cuisine” has lost its traditional meaning, so we think it's reasonable that we will see more comforting dishes with now familiar flavors.
Superfoods Expand with Super Speed
At the end of last year, we noted a strong focus on “wellness” impacting a number of aspects of the industry. We see this expanding even more in light of COVID-19 with people looking to foods with immunity and other health benefits.
Cans Continue their “Can-Do” Attitude
Cans convinced us all of their convenience and true potential as the virus has forced us all to pack our pantries. Canned foods don’t have to mean low-quality. We think this may bode well for canned fish like sardines, which were already a bit on the rise due to their more sustainable nature. We were already seeing these ingredients used in interesting and creative ways and believe the Stay-at-Home will support that continued trend.
Cocktail Delivery Will Stay
The expectation has been set, and the market has proven the demand. There is a whole generation or two used to everything on demand, especially their meals. Now that includes a drink, and it will be hard for lawmakers to justify taking that away. Canned cocktails were already on the rise and an extension of the ability of restaurants to sell these would support the growth of these products. Our team is mixed on when, where, and how lawmakers will reverse back on alcohol delivery laws, but there is already precedent and process in many states with grocery delivery allowing the verification of age at the door.
High Proof, Please
One of our favorite trends of 2020 was Non-Alcoholic and Low Proof cocktails. We love all of the new and interesting NA Cocktails and Low ABV products. That being said, home bars are naturally less sophisticated than our favorite cocktail bars. American’s purchase of alcohol has increased as they prepare to stay-at-home, drink at the ready. It’s possible that tastes for strong drinks may lead to higher-proof consumption post sheltering. We may also see a resurgence of simple, spirit forward drinks with less mixology required. We do think the sober curious trend will be back, but may take a little break.
The Return of the Staycation
Early consumer insights studies indicate that air travel may continue to be concerning for a number of travelers well after the stay-at-home is over. At the same time, the longer the orders are in place, the more appealing a get-away will be. Enter the “staycation,” which represents a great opportunity for boutique hotels and drive-market tourist destinations.
Taking a Break from the Bar (The Salad Bar, that is)
Even though grocery stores remain essential and open, one section of the store that is intentionally empty is the self-service prepared foods. As concerns about contamination will likely remain for some time, we anticipate that grocery and food service providers will look to new solutions. Bulk foods and refillable containers may also take a pause or we’ll see new, touchless, dispensing mechanisms.
As people are getting more comfortable with video conferencing, we may see more conventions and events adding virtual components. Conventions provide the opportunity for in-person connection and engagement, so we don’t think they are going to go away, but we do think that live-streaming speakers and chats from the outside into events will become more prevalent as people adjust to the technology and learn how to maximize it.
Restaurant Design: Give Us a Little Breathing Room (and maybe a mask)
Experts are suggesting that the virus could linger a bit and that may mean even when we feel safe to go out, we may want to have a little extra space between tables. There also may be some restrictions governing standing at the bar. Just as the SARS outbreak in Asia made wearing masks more prevalent, we may also see more of these out and about. (Branded versions, perhaps?).
Restaurants do Delivery...On Their Own Terms
For the past several years, restaurant
operators have mostly had a dislike-hate relationship with consumer’s increased demand for delivery. Restaurant kitchens aren’t built for the operational needs of delivery, the fees charged by delivery companies don’t match up with current margins and most restaurant food doesn’t transport well. The stay-in-place has forced operators to reconsider how to tackle the only revenue streams that are available to them -- carryout and delivery. While many are doing it as a stop-gap measure, we are starting to see a few emerge with profitable models. (Check out this article in Wired about Addo in Seattle).
We predict the longer these circumstances last, the more operators will figure out how to make these profit centers work, which is a good thing because while we believe there will be a surge in people who want to dine out after being cooped up, the demand for delivery was previously very strong and the stay-in-place only reinforces that demand.
Multi-Concepts for Multiple Revenue Streams
Your restaurant is also a grocery store, community store and … a flower shop? For a long time, restaurants have been exploring alternate uses of space during the day, particularly in markets where lunch business has declined. We’ve seen restaurants also operating as co-working spaces or converting from grab and go during the day to full service at night. During the stay-at-home orders, restaurants are expanding on this as they begin to sell pantry items, bottles of wine, make at home meal kits, and even toilet paper, in addition to the food that’s on their restaurant menu. We think this trend will be pushed forward as restaurateurs are forced to understand and maximize these multiple revenue streams. (Well, maybe not the toilet paper, but food, drinks, flowers, and the like for sure).
Social Media: The Power Channel for Hospitality Brands
According to Influencer Market Research firm IZEA, a March 12th study shared that 66% of social media users believed their time on social media would increase and 99% believed they would purchase something online during the outbreak. 76% believed they would order online from a restaurant, while confined at home. These increases are striking and are likely to have a lasting impact on hospitality marketing. Many chefs and restaurants have turned to social media to share their recipes and give a behind the scenes look at what they do, guests will continue to want to consume this content even after they can enjoy their favorite places in person.