Restaurant Industry InsightsRestaurant Trends

The Changing Restaurant Landscape in 2023

If there’s anything the restaurant industry has taught us, it’s that nothing ever stays the same. For those who live on the cutting edge of technology, smack dap in Tomorrowland, that’s a good thing. It offers a changing environment, continuous excitement, and a “Can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings” optimism. 

However, for those who cherish comfort, cushiony booths, and dark-lit corners, the changing landscape may offer some hesitation. What happened to their pre-pandemic eatery? The one with the four-page menu, servers that had time to chat about the weather, and restaurants with all their stations open.

As Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, said, “Change is the only constant in life.” And in order to survive, the restaurant industry changed. The good news, however, comes from Winston Churchill, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” As an industry, we should be darn near perfection. 

From the Operator’s Viewpoint

First, our guests experienced closed doors as the pandemic shut us down. Then, they experienced busy dining areas with not enough servers or BOH staff as labor woes descended. This was followed by the highest inflation in 40 years and supply chain upheavals. I’m tired just thinking about it. 

However, as the wise men stated, change has only strengthened us. It made us embrace technology, a partner we’d long ignored. It made us reduce our menus to the most impactful items, signature dishes that make us stand out from our competitors. We valued our staff a little bit more, expected a little bit less, and considered the quality of life a measurable achievement for us and those we employ. 

From the Guest’s Viewpoint

But what do the guests see, and how do they feel about the changes we’ve made? Do they want to return to the way things were before, or do they applaud our adaptability, our resilience in the face of certain defeat?  

According to the Washington Post, 16% fewer people are dining on-premise compared to pre-pandemic levels. Where did they go? They went to takeout, delivery, and drive-thru. The industry, as a whole, saw about an 18% increase in restaurants offering online ordering directly from the establishment. 

As many of you know, the restaurants that hung in there during unprecedented times adopted technology to integrate off-premise options for guests. It looks like that isn’t going away any time soon, if ever. This technological adaptation is also expected to emerge in numerous other segments of the industry, enhancing the guest experience.

Guests have made it clear that they’re looking for an experience, something they can’t replicate at home. Forbes reported on 46 chefs who stated their expectations for 2023. These trending influences include Asian flavors, fermented food, global cuisines, Indian street foods, non-alcoholic spirits, and locally sourced proteins. 

Experts also expect to see the streamlined menu continue well into the new year and beyond. Diners seem to be happy about this approach, valuing quality over quantity. It appears what’s trending in 2023 was already on the table in 2022.

At EMERGING, we help our clients incorporate the latest technology, overcome supply chain and labor issues, and use data science to help them expand their operations, minimizing risks while maximizing profitability. To learn more about joining our team or to schedule a consultation, contact EMERGING.


Why is the guest experience important in a restaurant?

A great experience creates a memorable event, ensuring guests return and tell their friends and family about the meal and the experience that surrounds it. For some, an experience is about great, unusual food they can’t make at home. Others want something that excites all the senses, from visually stunning design to interactive activities. Then there are the social competitive venues growing in popularity, including entertainment concepts like Adam Breeden’s Puttshack, Flight Club, F1 Arcade, and Bounce.

What factors influence the selection of a restaurant by a guest?

Of course, great food and beverages and professional service are at the top of many diners’ reasons for returning to a restaurant. They’re also looking for unique menus and innovative ambiance. But what gets them through the doors for that first experience? The type of food carries the biggest influence, according to TouchBistro, followed by location, online reviews, recommendations from friends, and postings on social media.

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