The summer season countdown is almost over. Is your restaurant ready? Is your patio prepped? Have you thought of your summer cocktails?
June 20th is the first official day of summer, and this is an exciting time for the restaurant industry. Most states are on track to fully reopen restaurants for indoor and outdoor dining, and guests are eager to dine in restaurants again.
We've rounded up the top eight summer restaurant trends of 2021 that restaurant publications have predicted, and we'll take a look at them in this article. As part of restaurant management, it's essential always to be learning from the current trends. These give you insight into what your customers are looking for and enable you to drive more business.
1. Sustainability Resurfaces
Sustainability was put on the back burner by many restaurants during COVID. Still, in anticipation of more guests dining in versus getting takeout, FoodService Director believes it's coming back to the forefront.
For example, Starbucks recently announced it would be reintroducing personal reusable cups beginning on June 22nd. Throughout COVID, Starbucks developed a contactless method of delivering coffee and cut out any shared touchpoints between the customers and baristas. Therefore having to use more paper cups, but now has a goal to reduce waste by 50% by 2030.
Here are some easy ways for your restaurant to practice more sustainable trends:
- Introduce a few meatless or plant-based meat menu options
- Reduce food waste through donation
- Invest in environmentally friendly to-go containers
- Support your local farms and vendors
- Join a recycling program
2. Healthy Eating Returns
At the height of the pandemic, 68% of people were most likely to dive into an indulgent dish, and only 32% of people were looking for a healthy one.
Maeve Webster, President of Menu Matters, shares in a recent Food Management article, "Consumers have been focused on indulgence to deal with chaos because of the ease and comfort of indulgent foods, whether sweet or savory. Toward summer, the need to exert more control over their lives will result in a shift in behavior toward more health-focused foods."
This summer, there will be an increase in beverages and foods featuring ingredients believed to offer functional benefits. Specifically, these benefits are tied to:
- Immunity function
- Sleep quality
- Cognitive health
- Mood quality
- Stress reduction
Ingredients such as ginger, green tea, CBD, and turmeric will increasingly impact menus.
3. Martinis are Trendy
Yelp recently released their biggest food and drink trends for the summer of 2021, and martinis are expected to be a top drink order. Review mentions are up 65% for lychee martinis and 63% for espresso martinis.
Espresso martinis are enticing because they are both enjoyable and energizing with the familiar coffee flavor consumers love. On the other hand, lychee is known for its sweet and flowery flavor. Lychee is also a good source of several vitamins, minerals, and healthy antioxidants.
Read more: 20 Amazing Summer Cocktails to Boost Sales
4. Breakfast is Back
The breakfast daypart across the industry was hit the hardest during COVID-19. It took the most significant sales decline, but as more people get vaccinated and return to workplaces, it's expected to return this summer.
We've seen restaurants create their own spin on brunch and breakfast ideas. One that we want to highlight is Urban Roast and District Eatz in Washington D.C. Check out the TikTok below of Urban Roast's cafe flights. The cafe offers brunch boards filled with various breakfast assortments that are great for their guests to share.
District Eatz serves a variety of acai bowls, smoothies, and waffles that are great for on-the-go breakfast meals.
5. Healthy Coffee on the Rise
Consumers are seeking out coffee that adds extra benefits and offers a health boost. Of course, there's always debate on whether coffee is really good for you, but according to research, it is. Coffee is the fourth most popular beverage in the country, and in moderation, it can help improve our mood.
Now, loading up coffee with sugar and syrups can make it less beneficial, but that's how some new alternatives have come into the picture for the summer.
This is short for "protein coffee," and it's when cold coffee or espresso is mixed with a pre-made shake or protein powder. Many people are trying this trend out by ordering a few espresso shots over ice and pouring their protein drink over—the cup benefits as a post-workout treat or a satisfying substitute for breakfast.
Plant-Based Coffee Drinks
Research shows that the global dairy alternative market is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 12.5% from 2021 to 2028. The trend of seeking out plant-based milk alternatives comes from people's concerns over dairy production's environmental and ethical impact. Some possibilities you can add to your menu are oat, soy, and almond milk.
These kinds of milk have a high mineral and vitamin content making them an excellent nutritional substitute while consumers are looking to drink healthier coffee.
6. Al Fresco Dining
Outdoor dining is back, and it's here to stay. As temperatures rise across the country, consumers continuously prefer outdoor dining over indoor dining. Recent data has found that 73% of U.S. adults feel safe sitting down for a meal outside, compared to 65% for sitting inside.
The appeal for outdoor dining remains most popular among consumers, and summer is the perfect time to take advantage of this opportunity.
7. Chicken Sandwiches Galore
QSR magazine shares that 65% of the U.S. population have ordered a breaded chicken sandwich between October of 2020 and April of 2021 at a quick-service restaurant (QSR). QSRs have started a chicken sandwich war.
Since Popeye's 2019 launch of the chicken sandwich, many QSRs such as McDonald's and Wendy's were quick to follow the trend. Taco Bell has even created its own version called the "Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taco."
NPD Food Industry Advisory, David Portalatin, states, "Operators who put chicken sandwiches or burgers or both on their menus are headed in the right direction."
8. Fresh Seafood
Seafood is delicious all year, but there's nothing better than a chilled seafood dish in the hot summer. Seafood tower review mentions are up 26% on Yelp as people are looking for their new favorite raw bar.
Seafood towers specifically are always a big hit on restaurant menus. For one, their multi-tiered presentation turns heads when one is on a table. Filled with oysters, clams, shrimp, mussels, and more, it's an attractive dish that sells itself.
To kick off the summer, see how you can implement these food and drink trends into your restaurant. For more help prepping your restaurant for this new season, check out our Restaurant Seasonality Checklist. Find insight on menu, decor, holidays, and promotional ideas you can use for this summer season, keeping business strong all year long.