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Pop-Up Restaurant Forces Customers to Dine Alone

Pop-Up Restaurant Forces Customers to Dine Alone

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Eenmaal, a pop-up in Amsterdam, only houses single-person tables

A "table for one" might sound depressing to many (thanks to Sex and the City teasing Miranda's Chinese food habit), but one pop-up is hoping to change that perception.

Pop Up City reports that a new restaurant in Amsterdam only houses tables for one; Eenmaal, as it's called, was specifically designed to make people who never dine alone go out and try it in a non-negative social situation. "'Eenmaal’ is an exciting experiment for those who never go out dining alone, as well as an appealing opportunity for those who often eat alone at restaurants," social designer Marina VanGoor said.

VanGoor explains that her pop-up is designed to make it more appealing for people to dine alone and fine quiet in solitude; restaurants, which tend to be bustling with conversation, aren't necessarily attractive to people who are hoping to eat alone without anyone staring.

Judging from photos of the space, the restaurant's tables are only a small square, difficult to share, with room for one chair under the table. And while this pop-up is only a two-day experiment, the concept is still interesting. Perhaps Miranda won't have to pretend to be ordering for two over the phone anymore. Check out the Facebook page here.

There’s an Israeli-Mediterranean restaurant pop-up headed to the rooftop of the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Sant’olina – the latest project from h.wood Group – is scheduled to open in early March and run indefinitely. The mezze-forward menu will include fresh hummus, marinated feta, harissa-cured salmon, bourekas stuffed with farmers cheese, and heirloom beets with labneh. Open for dinner and weekend brunch.

1:51 PM, Feb. 10, 2021 Sant’olina will open at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, not the Beverly Hills Hotel.

Info: 9876 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills,

Pepsi Is Opening Its Own Digital Pop-Up Restaurant

Pepsi may be your beverage of choice when it comes to ordering from fast-food restaurants, but have you ever given any thought to just what foods would go best with that cold soda? The question is at the heart of a new digital pop-up restaurant the beverage giant will be operating all through May.

Pep's Place, which opens today in select locations around the country, will provide a Pepsi-first online ordering experience. You'll start by picking your favorite Pepsi flavor, and based on your choice, get a curated menu of dishes that have been hand-picked to complement your drink.

"With the launch of Pep's Place, we have designed a new 'fast beverage' restaurant delivery concept that features a menu and experience literally built around the idea of what foods go best with Pepsi, allowing consumers at home to fully optimize their meals," said Todd Kaplan, vice president of marketing at Pepsi.

For example, if you're in the mood for citrusy Pepsi Zero Sugar, a tangy Chicken Caesar Salad will be one of your suggested entrées. Craving Pepsi Mango? The fruity and floral notes will complement the perfect blend of mild chiles found in a signature buffalo wing sauce. You can also expect mains like cheeseburgers, Cajun chicken sandwiches, and spare ribs on the eclectic food menu. Once you've chosen your dish, you'll get to round out your order with sides like mac and cheese, broccoli, or Lay's potato chips.

10 Trends That Shaped Food And Restaurants In 2020

Ordinarily, my annual look back at food and restaurant trends is a pretty lighthearted affair, but 2020 has been no ordinary year. Few Americans, it’s safe to say, can remember another year that packed such a wallop.

The food and restaurant industry was among the hardest hit. So this year, instead of focusing on the usual ingredients and societal trends that shaped the industry, it’s all about the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For starters, to date an estimated 100,000 American restaurants have been forced out of business. That’s sobering enough, but who would have thought a year ago that restaurant staff would be considered frontline workers, that it would be strange to see Americans not wearing masks in public, or that over 10 percent of Americans might not know where their next meal is coming from? And seriously, how many of us even knew what Zoom was? You can read more about the difficulties faced by the industry here.

Each year, I reach out to restaurants all over the U.S. for trends they're seeing (32 ideas, down from the usual 50-plus) and run those trends by a panel of experienced culinary commentators. This year there are 7 experts:

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Canada-U.S. Border Restrictions Extended Until At Least June 21

Simon Majumdar is a global traveler, journalist, author and broadcaster. A Food Network personality appearing on shows such as Iron Chef America and Guy’s Grocery Games, he’s also the restaurant critic for Time Out Los Angeles and has written three books on his food travels, most recently Fed, White and Blue, about his move to American citizenship. He also writes and hosts the food history podcast, Eat My Globe.

Richie Nakano is the chef/co-owner of IDK Concepts, a pop-up restaurant in San Francisco. His brick-and-mortar ramen noodle shop earned him a 2013 StarChefs Rising Star Community Chef Award. He also manages hospitality industry talent and relations for the food media company ChefsFeed.

Chef David Rose is executive chef and spokesperson for Omaha Steaks, was a finalist on Food Network Star (Season 13) and is currently a regular Food Network personality. Based in Atlanta and a summa cum laude graduate of Le Cordon Bleu Culinary College there, he identifies as a southern chef who incorporates French culinary training with his family’s Jamaican recipes.

Robin Selden is a past president of the International Caterers Association and was just named to the BizBash 500, celebrating the top 500 event professionals in 2020 in the United States. She is Managing Partner and Executive Chef of Connecticut- and New York City-based Marcia Selden Catering and Naked Fig Catering (a plant-based joint venture with celebrity chef Matthew Kenney). Full disclosure: Robin and I are cousins.

Denny Culbert Photography 2018

Chef Isaac Toups is Chef/Owner of Toups Meatery in New Orleans, three-time finalist for the James Beard Award for Best Chef: South fan favorite on Bravo TV’s Top Chef season 13, and author of the acclaimed cookbook Chasing the Gator – Isaac Toups & the New Cajun Cooking. Born and raised in Cajun country, he combines his roots with skills acquired in top New Orleans restaurants, including a decade in Emeril Lagasse’s kitchens.

Bret Thorn is Senior Food & Beverage Editor of Nation’s Restaurant News with responsibility for spotting and reporting on food and beverage trends across the country. He has also studied traditional French cooking at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.

Izabela Wojcik is Director of House Programming for the James Beard Foundation, organizing over 200 culinary events yearly at the James Beard House in New York City. She often moderates and guest judges culinary events and serves on the Kitchen Cabinet, the advisory board to the American Food History Project at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

And here are the trends, and see this companion piece where the experts weigh in on the crisis in the restaurant industry in 2020.

The server in face mask and shield holding a thermometer and hand sanitizer has become the new . [+] normal in restaurants.

1 - Restaurants Discover the Great Outdoors

As scientists traced the transmission of the coronavirus to enclosed spaces that made social distancing impossible, outdoor meals took over in 2020. David Rose calls outdoor dining “monumental during this stressful year,” and Izabela Wojcik calls it “our salvation.”

As restaurants have been forced to operate with little to none of their traditional indoor seating, any restaurant that has any space is using it, from patios to parking lots. Spurred by the pandemic, many municipalities have allowed restaurants to place seats where they never were before: on sidewalks and in street parking spaces, and even traffic lanes and entire blocks closed to vehicular traffic.

Case in point: “We are lucky to have a large patio and have even extended it down the side of the building,” says Isaac Toups. “Our guests sit out there no matter the weather these days, and I don’t blame them one bit.”

Robin Selden says that as social distancing guidelines forced catered events to scale down (many jurisdictions capped the numbers of guests at any function due to the pandemic), outdoors events became the norm. Still, her company still had to double the the size of tents that would have been used in the past, even for much larger groups. Outdoor space heaters have also been helpful, she says, but “they were sold out for months!”

Richie Nakano observes that “It’s been fun to see all of the different types of outdoor seating: Covid cabins, Covid tents, Covid bubbles.”

But that’s also part of the problem: If you put a tent around a space, is it really outdoors? As Simon Majumdar bemoans, “Unfortunately, as here in California, state governments are too blitheringly incompetent to decide if it’s permissible or not.”

“This wouldn’t have happened without the pandemic,” says Bret Thorn, “but I think it’s here to stay” even after the COVID era, at least where the weather permits.

The coronavirus pandemic taught Americans a renewed appreciation for cleanliness.

2 - Cleanliness is Key

Of course, proper handling and serving of food were essential to the food service industry well before COVID. “We live this and have since we started,” says Robin Selden. Health departments routinely conducted rigorous inspections, and a poor rating could do real damage to a restaurant’s reputation.

Still, says Izabela Wojcik, “In the past, I’m not sure diners gave much thought to this, unless they encountered something egregious.”

But in a year when the mantra from health experts was “wear a mask, socially distance and wash your hands often,” Americans focused on cleanliness as never before, especially when it came to food.

So to both follow the experts’ recommendations and reassure customers about their wellbeing, “We have doubled down on sanitary precautions,” says Isaac Toups.

He’s hardly alone. In much of America in 2020, it’s been rare to enter a restaurant (indoor or even outdoor space) without a rapid temperature check and a spritz of hand sanitizer. Staff have worn masks and clear face coverings over them and have been extra vigilant about hand-washing and cleaning surfaces.

“It has slowed the way the hospitality industry operates,” says David Rose, “but it’s all meant to keep the patrons and employees safe and healthy.”

“I think one upside of COVID (if one can really suggest that it has an upside),” says Simon Majumdar, “is that the cleanliness of restaurants will become, at least for a while, much improved.”

Isaac Toups expects the sanitary standards will last a lot longer than just a while. “Dining will be changed forever,” he says.

Bars and restaurants around the world offered to-go alcoholic drinks for the first time in 2020. . [+] Photo by Rolf Vennenbernd/picture alliance via Getty Images

dpa/picture alliance via Getty Images

3 - Booze Everywhere

From restaurants offering cocktails-to-go to the growth of home mixology and people just, well, drinking more, alcohol sales have gone through the roof.

“Spirits, wine and beer spending has gone up exponentially this year,” says David Rose, “because of more time at home and a large portion of bars, restaurants and clubs not just being open.”

As pandemic-induced restrictions shut down bars and indoor dining, and many restaurants were forced to close down everything but takeout and delivery, one of the big shifts of 2020 was the loosening of liquor laws. All of a sudden, people were drinking at outdoor seating where there was none, and restaurants and delivery services became specialists in takeout of cocktails, wine and more.

“I’ve been absolutely charmed by all the juice bottles and booze pouches that have proliferated as restaurants have figured out how to offer cocktails to go,” says Izabela Wojcik.

“These days you can apparently lay by your mail slot and have booze piped into your mouth on request,” says Simon Majumdar.

“I live in New Orleans, home of the drive-through daiquiri shop. Glad the rest of the country is catching up!” quips Isaac Toups.

Another reason for this explosion: with the stress of the pandemic, people are just drinking more.

“Guilty as charged!” says Isaac Toups, echoing the sentiments of many Americans when he says “I know it’s not the healthiest way of dealing with this pandemic, but here we are.”

“You’d think the world was coming to an end by the way we are selling alcohol,” says Robin Selden. “Clients are ordering cases of wine and liquor to have on hand.”

That said, as Richie Nakano points out, “Stress-drinking isn’t new if you have worked in the hospitality industry. We just call it ‘drinking.’”

Bret Thorn notes that alcohol remains an affordable luxury for many. With dining out, travel and other leisure activities curtailed, he says, people are saving money. “We won’t be taking that vacation to Italy anytime soon, but we can pick up a nice bottle of Barolo.”

On the other hand, he says, “Part of the romance of cocktails is drinking them in a bar or restaurant. Pouring them in a tumbler while you’re wearing your pajamas isn’t as sexy, and I don’t see customers doing it for very long.”

Stuck at home and with plenty of time on our hands, it seems everyone became a baker in 2020.

4 - Home Baking

From accomplished chefs to entire families, Americans took up baking big time in 2020. Izabela Wojcik credits the home-baking trend to “Time on our hands, boredom, stress eating and a desire to be comforted. Carbs! Sweet! And we’re home!”

David Rose agrees: “People have taken it upon themselves to truly hone their baking chops.”

Robin Selden calls it “Baking like there is no tomorrow, and then eating like you’re going to the electric chair,” adding, “Hence the weight gain than many have seen over the past 9 months!”

And it’s not just home chefs: food industry pros too. Izabela Wojcik says “I’ve personally never baked more cakes, tarts, pies in my entire life that during COVID.”

Isaac Toups learned how to bake focaccia, and Simon Majumdar jokes that “‘What’s the name of your sourdough starter?’ is now the new ‘where did you go to college?’” (Note from the author: My starter’s name is Beverly.)

Still, Richie Nakano notes, “It is possible to bake a loaf of bread at home and not Instagram it.”

Virtual cooking classes provided relief for chefs and home cooks alike.

5 - Virtual Cooking Classes Go Mainstream

In 2020, “The whole world went virtual,” says Izabela Wojcik, and outfits from her own James Beard Foundation to Michelin-starred restaurants offered cooking experiences via Zoom and other online meeting platforms.

“The love of food and connecting with food is a universal language,” says David Rose. “Being able to stay connected digitally through that shared love of food is priceless!”

“It’s not as good as doing it in real life, not even close,” says Bret Thorn, “but it does allow restaurants with national reputations to reach a national audience regularly.” Plus, he says, “they’re highly profitable and fun for everyone.”

Robin Selden agrees. “While peeps may have Zoom meeting fatigue, the minute you throw an apron, recipe and the mise en place at them, they are game to play.”

Putting the finishing touches on that meal from your favorite gourmet restaurant.

6 - DIY Meals Go Gourmet

In 2020, says Richie Nakano, “We finally got the answer to ‘What if a bunch of Michelin-rated chefs worked at Blue Apron?’”

Restaurants nationwide have been preparing meal kits “partially cooked and prepared but requiring some heating, finishing and plating,” says Izabela Wojcik. The results, she says, “allow diners to access a ‘restaurant’ quality meal in the safety and comfort of home and allow chefs to offer their food without sacrificing their reputation and quality. Everybody wins.”

Isaac Toups adds “It’s a great way to pivot and be creative,” and it’s helped enable some restaurants to stay in (albeit scaled-down) business.

More than making money, Simon Majumdar notes, “It’s a way of keeping conversations going between restaurants and their audiences, so they remember them when things return to normal.”

Bret Thorn is a little more skeptical: “I give this about a year. It’s a cool temporary fix, but if people want to cook, they’ll cook.”

The fate of the buffet, like this one in an Orlando hotel, remains in the balance. (Photo by: . [+] Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Universal Images Group via Getty Images

7 - Death of the Buffet

“Yup, done,” says Izabela Wojcik. “It will be years before we welcome this.”

Even before Covid, he says, they “have always been looked at with a side eye of suspicion as a retirement home for bacteria,” says Simon Majumdar.”

You can imagine why (hint: see “cleanliness” above). Diners move along a service line, using the same utensils to serve themselves. Hopefully there are sneeze guards. Richie Nakano calls the concept “extremely gross when you think about it.”

“I for one am not sorry to see them go,” Simon Majumdar adds adds.

Nakano makes a distinction between high-end “Bellagio buffets” where servers in chef’s coats and toques prepare food before your eyes, and other buffets. “The excitement of making your personalized plate, the omelet station and going back for seconds or maybe even thirds was always a treat,” says David Rose.

Contrast that with “the crappy buffets at conferences and conventions,” Nakano says. “Catering trays full of overcooked eggs that have been out for hours? I won’t miss that.”

David Rose sees a third way. “I think the buffet may still survive but may no longer be self-serve.”

And, perhaps, this reality check from Bret Thorn: “People have already forgotten how to social-distance. They’ll be slobbering over buffets by 2022.”

In leaner times, chefs have had to take on new roles outside of the kitchen.

8 - Chefs Step Out of the Kitchen

“To compensate for the dip in sales,” says David Rose, “some chefs have been forced to lay off or furlough loyal, hard-working employees. To fill in that void, chefs now have to fill in those missing staff gaps.”

As a result, says Bret Thorn, the chef’s role suddenly combines “cooking and front of house and Zoom personality and Instagrammer and delivery person and figuring out how to turn their food into consumer-packaged goods, and maybe also designing hats and t-shirts.”

“The more tricks of the trade you know,” adds Isaac Toups, “the better off your restaurant will be.”

Richie Nakano is skeptical: “I cannot stress enough how poorly equipped most chefs are when it comes to customer service, operating a POS and dealing with delivery.”

To sum, “A friend called this ‘your tomorrow team,’” says Robin Selden, “the team (not only chefs) that throws their job descriptions out the window during this mess to do whatever it takes to keep our heads above water. Trend or not, it’s the only way to survive this now. Knock the chip off everyone’s shoulders, and get it done!”

In 2020, food delivery went way beyond pizza and Chinese cuisine, and delivery people became front . [+] line workers.

9 - Takeout Takes Off

Takeout and delivery, says Bret Thorn, “was a massive trend before the pandemic hit. COVID-19 just accelerated it.”

“Many restaurants that would never dream of takeout and delivery have been forced to pivot this year,” says David Rose. “You can now enjoy these 5-star meals from the comfort of your own kitchen table.”

“It gave upscale, refined restaurants an opportunity to reimagine their menus and give diners access for the first time,” says Izabela Wojcik.

From the restaurateur’s perspective, though, not all delivery services are equal. “We have had good experiences and really bad and frankly predatory companies come around,” says Isaac Toups, charging delivery fees that all but eliminate any profit to the restaurants.

A sub-category of this trend is large-scale family meals.

“I think this is a great idea,” says Isaac Toups. In this age of virtual schooling, with parents having to take on the burdens from teacher to playground supervisor in addition to work and regular family life, “it takes one thing off your plate.”

Izabela Wojcik agrees. “Family-size meals, or multiple meal-to-go plans, lessen some of that burden of planning,” she says, Yet they “allow for that sense of family dining, passing platters and something for everyone, with guaranteed leftovers.”

As a caterer, Robin Selden’s company began offering a “Fresh to Freezer” line of meals large enough to feed 8 people. “Our thought was they could enjoy them fresh when they arrive and freeze the rest to enjoy at a later date.”

Bret Thorn call is this “An extension of the large bucket of chicken. Large-format meals fill a real need and are here to stay.”

Volunteers load boxes of food into a car during a Greater Pittsburgh Community Food bank drive-up . [+] food distribution in Duquesne, Pa., Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

10 - Hunger Takes Center Stage

“I hope you are as outraged as I am,” says Isaac Toups. “Food insecurity is a national crisis, and frankly it’s embarrassing that America has this problem, with 10.5% of Americans being food insecure.”

Simon Majumdar calls it “Not wondering ‘what’ but ‘if’ they are going to eat today.”

As America’s TV screens filled daily with images of cars lined up at food banks during the COVID pandemic, “We’ve come to see how many people are living on the edge of hunger,” says Bret Thorn. “That’s not a new phenomenon, but I hope public awareness of it sinks in and lasts.”

Not least, the problem has hit the hospitality industry itself, and chefs who were able set about helping those in need. Chef Toups’ team “immediately sprang into action when COVID hit, to feed our fellow service industry people and then eventually anyone who needed a hot meal. We continue our family meal program every single day to this very day.”

Robin Selden’s catering business turned its attention to feeding frontline workers, and in house, “We create basic food boxes for our team so that we know that they will have food, as well as healthy family meals to take home,” down to Thanksgiving turkeys for each family.

Chef David Rose urges everyone to support charities that focus on food security. After all, he says, “You never know when you may need help from one of these organizations yourself.”

Want to Have Dinner in a Stranger’s Home? There’s an App for That

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From accommodations to automobiles, the so-called &ldquosharing economy&rdquo has encroached on what seems like every aspect of our lives. With companies like Airbnb giving major hotel chains a run for their money and ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft leading some individuals to abandon their cars altogether, it was only a matter of time before the restaurant industry became the next challenger. Now, thanks to companies like VizEat, that&rsquos coming to fruition.

Often referred to as the &ldquoAirbnbs of dining,&rdquo meal-sharing services like VizEat, EatWith, Feastly and BonAppetour exist somewhere between a supper club and a pop-up restaurant. There&rsquos one big difference though: the venue is typically the home of a stranger, who is happy to break bread with a group of people he or she has never met before, all in the name of forging connections (and possibly testing out some new recipes). While these services are not a brand-new invention &mdash last March, Eater wrote about how the rise of social dining apps began in the early part of this decade, but that no single one had yet to dominate the market &mdash where they seem to be making the most impact is with travelers.

VizEat, which launched in 2014, is one of the companies leading that charge. Founded by Camille Rumani and Jean Michel Petit, a pair of travel junkies who &mdash on separate trips, and in different countries &mdash both ended up having memorable home-cooked meals in a stranger&rsquos home while on the road. The experience changed them, and the idea for VizEat was born.

Say cheese! (And wine.) Image courtesy of VizEat&rsquos Facebook page.

Today, according to the The Independent, the app boasts approximately 22,000 hosts in more than 100 countries, who welcome travelers into their private abodes and offer them a one-of-a-kind experience by preparing a meal or giving a cooking lesson, sending them back home with a few new culinary tricks, a story to tell and hopefully a new friend in a once-strange city.

What sets VizEat apart is that it was created specifically with travelers in mind &mdash which means you&rsquoll always know someone wherever you&rsquore headed. Plus, if you&rsquore worried about just who it is that you&rsquoll be sitting down to dinner with, you can rest assured knowing that VizEat vets all of its hosts and, like Airbnb, you can message them ahead of time to get a clear sense of what the evening has in store &mdash and whether it&rsquos for you.

There&rsquos no awkward &ldquoreaching for the check&rdquo at the end of the night either, as the cost is paid right through the website. Prices run the gamut, depending on where, when and what your meal will entail, but figure on somewhere between $20 and $60 per person. Which seems like a fair amount for a priceless experience.

Trust Will Mean Everything to Restaurant Customers After COVID-19

Customers are going to the brands they know and love during uncertain times.

Black Box Intelligence recently shared an interesting data point concerning “high-frequency spenders,” and how they’ve remained active during COVID-19. While sales plunged industrywide—56 percent in the back half of March alone—that doesn’t mean everybody’s taken to the sidelines. The company found, of those consumers that spent any money on restaurants (in the week ending March 27), 39 percent made at least five or more transactions. Bottle Rocket, a digital experience consultancy firm known for its work on Chick-fil-A’s app, released survey data that showed much of the same—restaurant loyalists continue to narrow down where they go for food during the pandemic, but they’re still going. Some even said they’re visiting favorite spots more frequently now than before.

What this suggests is simple, yet vital. As Jon Taffer told FSR in a recent article, the very core of why people are eating is going to change post COVID-19. Rethink food quality as the No. 1 reason people get off the couch. The decision will come down to trust. “Not products,” Taffer said. “Everything is going to be about trust and transparency.”

Tropical Smoothie Café CEO Charles Watson adopted a similar tone: “Customer loyalty is pivotal right now,” he said.

To put it plainly, people are flocking to the familiar during a time when nothing feels normal. And when we emerge into a wary, strange new world, the same sentiment will ring true.

Consumers will put their dollars and personal safety into the hands of restaurants they trust.

Market Force Information shared an exclusive study with FSR looking into how consumers perceive restaurants amid COVID-19 conditions. How are their favorite brands responding to infection control? How is consumer behavior and attitudes changing toward things like contactless transactions and problem experiences?

The company, known for its annual benchmark studies, polled nearly 4,000 guests between April 6 and April 8. One of the big points to emerge: 80 percent of consumers said they continue to deal with the brands they know and love.

Let’s dive into the rest of the results.

An overall look

Eighty percent of respondents said they “completely agree” that the suggestion to stay at home and practice social distancing was appropriate. But only 6 percent believe the government has the current health crisis under control.

Additionally, 50 percent said the world will change as a result of coronavirus and 34 percent think their own behavior will never return to normal.

To the earlier point, 80 percent continue to deal with the brands they trust to ease some of these fears.

“From what you know today, rate your agreement with the following: I continue to deal with the brands I trust.”

  • 1 (do not agree at all: 2 percent
  • 2: 3 percent
  • 3: 16 percent
  • 4 (agree): 30 percent
  • 5 (completely agree): 50 percent

Keep in mind this is something that will linger. The restaurants that helped people get through the crisis will carry that standing into the future.

Below is a look at some positive traits consumers noticed (and gave retailers, restaurants included, credit for).

Market Force’s study suggested consumers are eager to support local restaurants. Forty-four percent said they have been purchasing more frequently from independent spots (not large chains) in recent weeks.

They appear content with safety measures, too.

Spending habits

Twenty-eight percent of people said they’ve visited or purchased items from a grocery store within the last two weeks that they normally don’t shop at.

  • Looking for items not available at other stores: 54 percent
  • Less busy/fewer customers: 37 percent
  • Better stocked in general: 36 percent
  • Cleaner location: 13 percent
  • Convenient store hours: 11 percent
  • Offered grocery delivery: 11 percent
  • Offered curbside pickup: 10 percent
  • Offered store hours just for elderly or high-risk customers: 7 percent
  • Other: 11 percent

This data lends weight to why so many restaurant chains are offering essential items lately, almost like pop-up groceries. There’s share to be won beyond the typical pillars—quality and service—and more with simply having what people are looking for. Essentially, tapping into the changes we’re seeing with why people are eating. It’s no longer so tied to things like flavor and convenience. Today, the question is: Can you get the product? Or can you not? People just want to put food on the table and essentials in the pantry.

Market Force found that 88 percent of respondents visited grocery stores in the past two weeks. Among those, only 30 percent were able to find everything they were looking for (this is worth circling for restaurants).

While 73 percent observed enhanced cleaning or sanitizing taking place during their trip, and 77 percent reported signage or communication that increased their confidence in cleanliness/safety, only 39 percent were “completely satisfied” with the personal cleanliness/safety standards they noticed from grocery employees.

Items not found:

  • Paper products (toilet paper, paper towels, napkins): 65 percent
  • Cleaning supplies: 48 percent
  • Meat (fresh or packaged) 41 percent
  • Dairy: 37 percent
  • Frozen foods (pizza, entrees, ice cream): 27 percent
  • Packaged dry foods: 26 percent
  • Packaged canned foods: 25 percent
  • Fresh produce: 24 percent
  • Bakery: 23 percent
  • Beverages: 17 percent
  • Personal hygiene: 10 percent
  • Other: 9 percent
  • Baby products: 7 percent

This could serve as a starting point for restaurants considering a pantry-type program. The employee note is something operators can embrace as well. Even if customers are showing up for curbside, they’re paying attention to everything workers are doing.

Break out the masks, gloves, dividers, etc. Whatever it takes and everything you can think of.

A shift to notice

Market Force discovered only 15 percent of customers used curbside pickup in the last two weeks. Adoption remains relatively low.

Among the customers that did so:

  • 58 percent had used curbside pickup before COVID-19
  • Only 27 percent were able to purchase all of the items they needed (this probably applies more to grocers)
  • 43 percent were very satisfied with personal cleanliness/safety standards observed (compared to 39 percent in store)
  • 26 percent of curbside pickup orders were inaccurate (Market Force credited this to a lack of availability).

A positive figure to latch onto for restaurants: Nearly 80 percent (79) said they plan to use curbside pickup even after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. So if there’s a pop-up drive thru setup at your restaurant, it might be worth leaving it up for a bit, if possible. At least until there’s a tangible, near-normal return to dine-in traffic.

Reasons for using curbside pickup even after restrictions are lifted:

  • Time savings: 77 percent
  • My order was ready on time: 53 percent
  • Website was easy to use: 46 percent
  • Alleviated my safety concerns: 36 percent
  • No issues with the quality of the items selected by the shopper: 34 percent
  • Cost of service fees is worth the convenience (where applicable): 33 percent
  • I do not enjoy grocery shopping in the store: 32 percent
  • My items were handled carefully: 31 percent
  • No issues with the accuracy of my order: 31 percent

And here’s a look at why some people will abandon curbside service:

  • Prefer to shop inside: 71 percent
  • Concerned about the quality of the items selected by the shopper (this is a grocery store item): 29 percent
  • Cost of the service fees: 28 percent
  • Concerned about the accuracy of my order: 27 percent
  • Did not seem to be a time savings: 18 percent
  • Website was difficult to use: 11 percent
  • My order was not ready on time: 8 percent
  • Did not alleviate my safety concerns: 8 percent
  • Mu items did not seem to be handled with care: 5 percent
  • Other: 14 percent

The takeaway: Curbside could be a key tool for operators to not only ease food safety fears post COVID-19, but also to provide a convenience element they may not have been known for before.

A question for sit-down chains, though, is how much of this off-premises shift will level out? Will restaurants hold on to some of the extra business they’re seeing? Or will the fact it’s mostly coming from core, dine-in customers (and not incremental) result in a quick reset? Will those guests just go back to the dining room?

It’s pretty much impossible to say with any certainty right now. But there’s a good chance those same guests will feel more comfortable trying delivery/takeout from their favorite restaurants than they used to. Or perhaps some new customers were introduced to the brand during COVID-19 and will want to return to the dining room. Pretty hard to say for sure one way or the other. Yet there’s zero harm in trying to get the off-premises business humming.

Silly pop-up coming to Dallas forces you to dine while blindfolded

Dallas is getting what can only be described as a unique dining opportunity with a new pop-up coming into town called Dining In The Dark.

The event is actually not in the dark, but diners are blindfolded, with the mildly preposterous idea that, as you sit down to your dinner without the option of seeing, you are then forced to focus more intensely on your other senses.

The promoter, a company called Fever, describes it as "a fantastic experience" that also creates opportunity for restaurateurs and event producers who have been adversely affected by the pandemic.

The release claims that "psychologists have been advocating dining in the dark as the ultimate taste experience for many years."

"Studies show that 80 percent of people eat with their eyes with that sense eliminated, the theory is that the other senses, namely taste and smell, take over to elevate your meal to a whole new level," it says.

So you're getting a meal that you can enjoy 20 percent's worth.

Participating diners must don blindfolds in a darkened, candlelit room. That's when they "quickly realize that focusing on taste and smell alone can be a truly enlightening experience."

There are three menu choices: Green (Vegan), Red (Meat), or Blue (Seafood). You're not told what you're eating. Instead you're to let yourself be carried away by the taste and guess what you're eating.

The release says that Dining In The Dark has proved popular in other countries such as Spain and Portugal. What fun countries they must be!

The event will take place on Wednesdays in March and early April, with seatings at 6 pm & 8:30 pm. Tickets are $80. They're not saying where it is yet, other than a "Secret Location — a restaurant in downtown Dallas blanketed in darkness — its whereabouts will be revealed soon."

So much mystery. Hopefully, they will tell you where it is before the dinner happens.

Maybe the only thing dumber than this is the other traveling pop-up where you're forced to wear white. Eating food in a normal way just isn't zany enough.

This is not the first dining-in-the-dark event to have hit Dallas. One put on by a West Coast company came through in 2012, and before that was an event called The Blind Cafe, advocating for people with disabilities, in which the dining room was actually not lit.

Lunch on the house

Ottawa restaurateur Stephen Beckta says fine dining establishments should see a solo diner as "the greatest compliment a restaurant can receive".

His three restaurants - Beckta, Play and Gezellig - are magnets for solo diners in the Canadian capital.

In addition to having the extensive bar seating and thoughtful service that restaurant experts such as Mr Allen highlight, Mr Beckta's three outlets also enable solo diners to busy themselves with tasting menus of up to eight small courses.

Mr Beckta says: "Solo diners choose to eat with us for the pleasure of dining - not because they were roped into a celebration or a date - so why would we not embrace them?"

And while his staff are happy to have a good chat with people dining on their own, he says guests can request to be left alone.

"If you're a solo diner, my suggestion is to ask for the things that are going to make you happy," says Mr Beckta.

"A table out of the way? A seat at the bar? In conversation or left alone? A good restaurant wants to make you happy."

Mr Beckta's love for solo diners also goes as far as his three eateries offering a free lunch to guests who have booked a date reservation for two, only to find themselves stood up.

"How else would you want to turn around their experience if not to take care of their bill?" he says.

But do any diners pretend to have been stood up just so they can get a free meal?

"We've never had anyone try to take advantage of our policy, though we don't extensively advertise it," Mr Beckta says.

"We just trust our customers, and have found that if you do the right thing by them, they'll take care of you in return."

2. Offer E-Gifts

E-gift coupons aren’t just for big chain restaurants. (tweet this) As an independently owned restaurant, you can tap into an entirely new market with e-gifts.

Offer the option to buy restaurant ‘credit’ on your website. Try a service like Giftango to send the recipient a special code to redeem at your location. You can offer flat amounts like $20, $50, or $100.

The great thing about this is that you’re reaching out to a market beyond your local area. You’re giving the option for someone in another city to buy a dinner for their parents back home, or send a free lunch to a client as a thank-you gesture.

Not many independent restaurants are doing this. Get in as an early adopter to connect with your more internet-savvy customers.

Market slice

Some fast food firms such as Domino's Pizza did well in 2020, with sales and profits growing.

Delivery firms Deliveroo, Just Eat Takeaway and Uber Eats also saw huge growth, although all were still loss-making.

Despite many more deliveries over the past five years, the big food delivery platforms are in a desperate scramble to get more customers, Ms Mak said, with competition cutting into revenues and profits.

However, Ibisworld expects their revenue to increase to £7bn over the next five years.

Deliveries will probably grow over time, the analysts said.

"We expect to see that people have changed a lot, including how we act on a day-to-day basis," said Ms Chapman. "We expect some of those habits will stick. We are not going to go back to how it was."

Tom Johnson at management consultants Trajectory Partnership said that the firm expected demand for online takeaway and home delivery to "stay pretty strong".

"This is probably more to do with economic pressures on consumers - takeaway is cheaper than a night out - and people actually quite liking the slower pace of life, rather than concern about going back to restaurants," he said.

UK Hospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said people were "desperate" to get back into pubs.

But with social distancing "massively" reducing revenues, "even more operators will have to focus on offering both in-venue and takeaway and delivery for some time to come just in order to survive," she said.

Watch the video: Μάρκετινγκ Εστιατορίων Από τον Σύμβουλο Επιχειρήσεων Εστίασης Ηλία Στεφανίδη ΕΣΤΙΑΤΟΡΙΟ ΙΔΕΕΣ 2020 (August 2022).