Restaurant Trends 2021 Guide

Restaurant Trends 2021 Guide


While it’s never been easy to be in the restaurant industry, this past year has been extremely challenging. Restaurants experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, all within one year. 

Planning for the future with so much uncertainty is hard. But, a new restaurant rebound will come. In preparation, we have created a guide for the latest emerging restaurant trends for 2021. 


The guide goes in-depth on the current trends and how we expect to see them evolve going into the new year. We’ve gathered insight from culinary experts and market analysts to help prepare restaurateurs like you to find the information you need to know to make the most out of 2021. 

Here’s a sneak peek of some of the top trends we expect to see: 

Modern Comfort Food

A top trend we witnessed amid the pandemic was consumers turning to comfort food. The classic staples you can always count on that provide a sense of normalcy. This year comfort food will be the name of the game but with a slightly modern twist. 

Menu experts predict that there will be new variations of comfort foods that have a globally-inspired spin. This allows for more cross-cultural fusion cuisines such as Mexican-Korean and Italian-Indian. Think foods like carnitas ramen, kimchi quesadilla, and ahi tuna nachos.

Research firm Datassential gives operators insight on how to drive customers with innovative new items. They call it “fusebiquity.” Fusebiquity is a combination of common foods with new flavors and influences. Fusebiquity-inspired dishes will continue to evolve alongside the latest flavor trends. 

Hard ‘Boozy’ Kombucha & Low ABV Drinks

Hard kombucha began to grow in popularity in 2018, but it will take over in 2021. The benefits of this ‘boozy’ kombucha are what makes it so appealing to consumers. It’s gluten-free and filled with probiotics, making it a healthier drink alternative. 

Some of the biggest hard kombucha brands are JuneShine and Boochcraft; both originated in San Diego, CA. A recent Yelp study shows that review mentions of “hard kombucha” were up by 377%. 

Food & beverage research platform Spoonshot notes that interest in low, and no, ABV drinks have skyrocketed by 332.6% over the last five years. As consumers continue to be more conscious about what they drink, drink trends such as spiked seltzers, natural wines, and hard kombucha are here to stay. 


Supporting Local

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought communities closer together than ever before. Even with the impact that it has had on restaurants, businesses and consumers are finding new ways to show support within their local community. 

The new norms of the industry now include providing for the community first. Restaurants expanded their offering for consumers when they needed it most, selling basic grocery needs and have donated countless meals to feed first responders and health care workers. 

Your restaurant’s involvement in the community right now is essential. According to ZypMedia, 84% of consumers want to support their local community. Community is a driving force for consumers’ support for restaurants, and we believe this will become even more important as we head into 2021. 

Creating At-Home Restaurant Experiences

As delivery and takeout continue to reign supreme, restaurants will endure the ultimate test to be creative and figure out new ways to create at-home restaurant experiences. Here is where you need to put your focus in your to-go offering. 

We saw family-style meal kits and to-go cocktails take off, which will continue to do so, but this year, restaurants will have to begin to think outside of the box. 

For instance, an American restaurant, Ranch 45 Local Provisions in Solana Beach, CA, has tapped into creating chef-made frozen dishes delivered right to consumer’s doorsteps. It’s their first-ever collaboration with a local business called In Good Company. In Good Company offers signature dishes prepared by the top Chefs in San Diego and, we can proudly say Ranch 45 delivered. Chef Aron Schwartz creates the richest beef ragu with sustainability-raised Brandt Beef and uses it to make lasagna on a whole new level. Pictured below is their Brandt Beef Lasagna designed for amazing easy dinners at home. 


The Return & Rise of Quick Response Codes

We are now in a time where quick response (QR) codes are finally accepted. They have become a way for guests to access menus, place an order, and pay their bill all from their phones. The return of QR codes is a trend that has risen to help eliminate face-to-face contact and create a contactless dining experience. 

Here are a couple of different ways restaurants can use QR codes beyond ordering and paying:

Tip #1: Make navigating your menu easier by using different QR codes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and promotional happy hour menus. Exchange these out as your offerings change, so there’s no confusion from guests about what’s available to order. 

Tip #2: Get feedback from the guest’s experience through QR codes that link to your online review site. Place this code on the table or a sign that’s on the way out of the restaurant. 

Using QR codes to capture your customers’ feedback will help you build your credibility and increase your chances of being discovered online.  

Tip #3: Increase awareness and drive your customers to your social media accounts by adding a table-side QR code that links them to your social channels. The phone always eats first, and this way, they can tag you and help you attract new business. 

The Continued Rise of Ghost Kitchens

Ghost kitchens, also known as cloud or dark kitchens, have risen in popularity and have disrupted the fast-casual restaurant market. Ghost kitchen ventures are thriving because of the shift to takeout and delivery with COVID-19. It’s predicted that this segment can be worth $1 trillion by 2030. 

A ghost kitchen is a virtual eatery and culinary concept designed entirely for off-premise, forgoing dining rooms for delivery. In a post-pandemic world, delivery will remain a trend for consumers meaning that there’s a lot of space for ghost kitchens’ growth.

We’re not done yet

Even if dine-in comes back sooner than we anticipate, restaurants must continue to deliver the virtual experiences consumers are wanting. Keep moving forward with your digital journey to better connect with your customers, and remember, we’re all in this together.

Like what you see? Download the full version of our Restaurant Trends 2021 Guide below to read more.


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