America’s making reservations
Three takeaways from our F&B report
- Keisha Virtue
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Our new Food & Beverage report revealed that diners are heading back to restaurants. Reservations at full-service restaurants in the US in April were only slightly down from the same period in 2019. Fast food and QSR restaurants saw sales bounce back faster with 2021 figures 9.7% above 2019 levels, while sales for full-service restaurants in 2021 were still down 10.5% from 2019 levels.
1. Reservations are hotter in warm weather metros
Warm weather markets are operating at or above pandemic levels. The ability of restaurants in these markets to offer outdoor dining year-round as well as differences in state-wide restrictions allowed Sun Belt markets to recover a good deal faster than other metros. Miami recovered the fastest and was at pre-pandemic levels by April 2021 as a result of early removal of COVID restrictions in Florida. By March 2022, seated diners were up 35% over 2019 levels. In Austin, historic migration into the state has helped boost reservations 27% above pre-pandemic levels.
SunBelt market on-premise dining significantly higher than rest of US
2. Pivoting promotes profits
During the height of pandemic-related lockdowns, restaurants took all sorts of measures to expand revenue streams like alcohol-to-go, carryout and delivery, outdoor dining and even grocery or catering services.
Carryout and delivery proved to be essential services during quarantine. 81% of fine dining restaurants, 78% of family dining establishments, and 77% of fast casual restaurants added curbside takeout to their operations after March 2020. Nearly half of restaurateurs have also added food delivery options. The food delivery industry in the United States has seen revenue triple in the past five years, and this growth is showing no signs of slowing. Food delivery app revenue is expected to hit $42 billion by 2025. We can expect food delivery to be a continuing trend in 2022. In 2021, 53% of consumers - and 64% of millennials – shared that food delivery and takeout are “essential to the way they live.” Where possible, consumers prefer to order directly from restaurants rather than using a third-party app.
Food delivery app revenue tripled from 2015 to 2020
3 . Experience is in, and eatertainment is back
Several years before COVID, we saw a significant rise in the demand for experience. Now, as consumers emerge from restrictions and start to head back out, the desire for experiences has been rekindled. This has been particularly heightened by mostly eating at home over the last two years.
Consumers are looking for unusual and upscale food, from casual to fine dining. This has lifted demand for chef-driven menus and global cuisine. I, for one, have Sexy Fish, a sumptuously upscale Miami restaurant on my wish list. The imaginative food & cocktails – Chocolate & Wine, anyone? – and the lavish décor should be a welcome change from too many Chick-Fil-A visits during lockdown.
Diners are also craving more social experiences, hence the rebirth of the eatertainment concept, which combines food, liquor and games in a competitive setting. Here are examples of hot eatertainment concepts:
Throw Social (Washington DC; Delray Beach) – a tropical-themed social venue combining food with live music and games like axe throwing, corn hole and ping pong.
Oche (Miami) – a gastro-gaming locale delivering elevated food, drinks and tech-driven darts
Your 3rd Spot (Coming soon: Atlanta) – an upscale eatertainment venue offering a boutique take on gaming, including upscale bowling lanes, nostalgic arcade games and an indoor-outdoor “social garden” (coming to Atlanta in 2022)
Puttshack (Chicago; Atlanta) – a tech-infused mini golf experience with DJs and live events, opening nine new locations in Denver, Houston and other cities.