Recently, Toast came out with its Q3 2023 Restaurant Trends report. This all-in-one POS and management system serves about 99,000 restaurants. Using an aggregated data analysis, they came up with the state of full-service restaurants, including protein trends, tipping, and reservations.
Let’s explore the restaurant industry as 2023 comes to a close, as seen through Toast’s cloud-based digital technology platform.
Dining Behavior and the Late-Night Crowd
It looks like the desire for late, late-night dining may be slightly waning. (Can we get a yay?) According to Toast’s data, 7 p.m. was the busiest period for transactions, except in the ultra-party city of Miami. In the Magic City, restaurant-goers placed the most orders from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Opting for a Reservation
Toast also found that Saturday is the most popular “let’s make a reservation” day. Saturday had 85% more reservations than the weekly average, Friday came in second with 54% more, and Sunday took the third spot with 8%. About 30% of those calling in for reservations did so between 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Many were also made after hours.
And how quickly were these reservations seated? Restaurant operators should give themselves a pat on the back, with half of all reservations seated within five minutes.
What Guests Are Eating
Toast looked at the proteins ordered across each state and found their favorites. Beef won out significantly in Wyoming, with over a third of diners who ordered protein opting for beef. Guests in Ohio and West Virginia ordered the most chicken, with 25% of orders containing this popular protein. Pork dropped to 12% of the orders, with Washington taking the lead. And, not surprisingly, Hawaii, Alaska, and Maine had the highest percentage of orders for fish.
Tips on the Toast platform averaged almost 19% of the check amount, keeping a steady pace compared to the same time last year.
Preparing for 2024: Scheduling
So, what does this information tell us? It suggests that, at least through the winter and spring, we should transform our staff’s schedule to ensure the busiest times are covered and there are not too many on in the late evenings, twiddling their thumbs. Actually, we know our staff better than that. The restaurant industry is nothing if not busy! Which brings us to scheduling and providing a better work-life balance for our employees.
This requires creating a schedule as far in advance as possible so employees can make plans and swap shifts with other staff members if they have a conflict. Some of your employees work two jobs, while others have a family. The earlier you can post the schedule, the more appreciative your staff will be (and the fewer no-shows you’ll experience).
While senior staff and top revenue producers get priority, it’s also a good idea to share the love, spreading the slow and busy shifts around. Today’s technology lets you take a deep dive into scheduling, with data analysis that reveals patterns, such as who works best together, who drives revenue, and top performers when it comes to upselling. Let this data help create a schedule that optimizes your staff.
If you’re one of the most sought-after restaurants, you can ignore this. These trending, difficult-to-book eateries are reserved for months in advance. Bon Appétit said it perfectly, “Scoring a reservation is still a contact sport.”
For us mere mortals, it’s important to make sure every reservation that comes in is given the attention it deserves. Some restaurants turn to Tablz, a reservation platform offering a 3D experience before guests enter your establishment. They view the restaurant and can book a specific table, paying for the best seats.
Several other tech solutions can also support your reservation challenges. These include OpenTable, a platform that helps restaurants manage reservations, tables, waitlists, and online reviews. Tock, the leader in market share in this segment, is the platform for reservation, takeout, culinary experiences, and event management.
Food Business News recently predicted the hot items on restaurant menus in 2024. Some of the top trends were globally inspired stews and soups, like laksa, salmorejo, and chicken tom kha. Grilled and cooked cheeses, including queso fundido, halloumi, and juustoleipa also made the list. Also on the list, is something I can pronounce, wagyu beef.
Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research for the National Restaurant Association, said, “This year’s trends are dominated by consumer craving for comfort and community with a healthy side of curiosity influenced by social media.”
Whether we’re ready or not, 2024 is coming on fast. May it be a year of calm certainty and little surprises.