It’s hard to imagine, but this is our last post for 2023. Where did the year go? While the beginning seemed like one challenge riding upon the wave of another, we made it through. At least, most of us did. If you live in Britain, you witnessed over five restaurant closures a day for the first three months. The first quarter of 2023 saw 569 restaurants close over the pond, with rising energy costs, food price inflation, and rising interest rates taking part of the blame.
In the U.S., eight of our major restaurant chains saw closures, including Steak’ n Shake, Red Lobster, Applebee’s, Burger King, and, of course, Boston Market.
So, where’s the good news? We actually had plenty of that to go around, as well.
It’s Time to Celebrate!
OpenTable’s insights for the year found that special holidays were celebrated, with Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day up 9% and 6% year-over-year. The solo diner also made an impact, increasing their dining out by 4%. For groups of six or more, they came in droves in mid-December, with year-end celebrations for teams, staff, families, and friends. These figures bid well for the upcoming holidays.
Top Menu & Beverage Items
The top trending cuisine was West African, up a whopping 72% from last year. African and Lebanese also saw significant upswings, with an increase of 23% and 18%, respectively. Some menu items that saw an uptick in social media and restaurant reviews included crispy rice, omakase, yuzu, and lychee.
On the beverage front, there were little surprises. The espresso martini and Aperol spritz received the most attention. Additionally, there were 48% more mentions of mocktails and 25% increases in speakeasies.
If your area allows it, ’tis the season, which means now’s the time to promote special delivery cocktails. Consider mason jars filled with Irish coffees, peppermint martinis, and cranberry Aperol Spritz. Drinks with ginger-pear flavors are also big this winter.
Things To Do in January
These trends are strong considerations as we look forward to next year. While January may be one of our slower months, unless you’re fortunate to be in a ski town, the lull before the storm grants us the opportunity to take stock of where we’ve been and where we’d like to be.
For those who embraced outdoor dining when indoor options retreated, it’s time to get out the portable heaters, dining domes, and igloos. Customers love the experience of being warm while still enjoying the beauty of the outdoors. If you have room and haven’t yet embraced outdoor dining in the winter, now’s the time to check up on local regulations and, if they allow it, create a setting that calls people in to your establishment throughout the year.
It’s also the time to beef up your delivery and takeout business. Many restaurants receive canceled reservations and guests who choose to stay in when the winter storms approach. Bring your delicious food to them and use social media to promote it. Include new menu items, share a recipe, host a live event, and showcase behind-the-scenes.
Comfort foods continue to trend, and winter is a great time to provide your customers with the comfort they seek. Consider healthy, nostalgic food with a twist. Chili, mac and cheese, and shepherd’s pie offer excellent bases for working your magic.
This time of year, our thoughts turn gratefully to our clients, friends, and partners. What a remarkable year it’s been! You make our success possible, and we hope that, in turn, we challenge you to be your best version and live fearlessly.
Happy holidays to everyone, and may your new year be filled with success and happiness. Until we meet again!