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Top 2021 restaurant trends: Bundled meal deals, off-premises a priority, alcohol to go + more

National Restaurant Association releases list of top trends for 2021

Restaurants are facing a very different future in 2021. There are several challenges that have manifested themselves because of the running pandemic, forcing many restaurant operators to now compete in a mostly-digital world and in the off-premises channel. Thus, the reason off-premises, bundled meals and meal kits are three of the top ten restaurants trends for 2021, released by the National Restaurant Association.

As consumers hunker down and avoid the on-premise dining experience, it’s also critical that restaurant operators embrace an omnichannel role. For many restaurants, retail is a big opportunity. Groceries and alcohol to-go—two other top restaurant trends—are ways that restaurants can further serve the needs of customers while remaining competitive during an era where consumers are seeking safety and simplicity. As cosnumers continue to seek out the most expedient and safest way to stock up on essential staples and guilty pleasures, restaurants can position themselves to be top outlets of convenience.

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Here is the list of top restaurant trends as published by the National Restaurant Association with inclusions of their commentary::

  1. Streamlined menus – helping reduce inventory and keep operations lean
  2. Off-premises takes precedence – off-premises is the name of the game today
  3. Blended meals, a team effort – Millennials are mixing things up with portions of a meal, like sides, ordered from restaurants with the main dish prepared at home
  4. Bundled meals? Considered deals! – In family packs or for individuals, bundled meals are multi-course experiences put together as a value deal
  5. Meal kits make cooking fun – More than half of adults and 75 percent of Millennials and Gen Zers would order meal kits if prepared from a restaurant
  6. Meal subscriptions – Customers sign up for pickup or delivery meals on set days for a set price
  7. Selling groceries – The Association notes that more than half of consumers would purchase pantry items if restaurants offered them
  8. Alcohol to go – a third of consumers of drinking age have purchased an alcoholic beverage with a takeout meal from a restaurant since the start of the pandemic. As local ordinances have relaxed, to-go adult-drink sales opportunities have increased
  9. Comfort foods – Items like burgers, pot pies, lasagna, soups, curries, sandwiches, pizza and noodle dishes, are trending
  10. Healthy and diet-specific food – healthful menu options can also attract new consumers
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Several top food and restaurant trends were covered in our Restaurant C-Suite Magazine Winter issue.

In addition to the above restaurant trends, the Association also released a list of top menu sellers in full-service restaurants and limited-service restaurants. To download the full trend report, navigate to its website.

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