EVEN TWO YEARS LATER, PANDEMIC COMPLICATIONS ABOUND FOR RESTAURANTS. BUT THERE’S ONE THING THAT CAN’T BE DISPUTED: THE GREAT DINING ROOM REDUX IS UNDERWAY.
Did COVID kill the Dinning Room? Once restaurants began closing their dining rooms in mid-March 2020, it was like removing a log from a delicately crafted dam. McDonald’s, Chick-fil-A, Starbucks, and a host of mega-chains flipped the locks as operators tried to strategize a virus that’s only blueprint was 7,000 miles away in China. From “15 Days to Slow the Spread” to hopes of shaking off the pandemic by Easter, the reality was hardly the prognosis, to put it rather lightly.
At this stage, though, restaurants are experts on the fallout. Years of tech innovation took hold in months. Socially distanced prototypes, patios and plastic bubbles, double- and triple-lane drive-thrus, and curbside became routine parts of industry vernacular.
Yet with any disruption, guessing the future is as much a predictions practice as it is a hindsight one. And one early doomsday topic under the hot lights: Would COVID kill the dining room as we knew it?
“Kill” is hardly the right label, says Ricky Richardson, CEO of Eggs Up Grill, a NextGen Casual brand that reached 50 locations last August. Richardson, also the former president and chief operating officer of TGI Fridays, says the breakfast concept has seen “phenomenal growth” in its total sales—a combination of off-premises gains joined by in-store returns. Eggs Up Grill’s comps are 20–30 percent above 2019 levels. “I think fundamental behaviors have shifted with a lot of our consumers in their acceptance of off-premises that wasn’t there before,” Richardson says. “But fortunately, we’re not seeing that as a replacement to the dine-in experience.”
Recent data pulls back the curtain on the potential Richardson references. Visits to dine-in at breakfast jumped 51 percent last September through November compared to the same period in 2020, when on-premises traffic plunged 55 percent, according to The NPD Group. Lunch, in the same window, rose 44 percent.
Online and physical orders/visits from and to full-service restaurants rose 8 percent, year-over-year, from January to October.
And all of this has transpired as 75 percent of restaurant visits remain off-premises. That latter category, which includes carryout, drive-thru, and delivery, climbed 9 percent versus 2020 and 19 percent over pre-COVID marks.
In simple terms, consumers’ appetite for restaurants didn’t wane during lockdowns. And the idea that fervor will subside when novelty does is a narrow one at best. Accessibility and connectivity broadened restaurants’ ability to drive revenue via multiple channels. In that shift is where the dining room has started to evolve.
Did COVID Kill the Dinning Room?
To read the entire article follow the link: https://www.fsrmagazine.com/consumer-trends/did-covid-kill-dining-room-not-even-close-restaurant-leaders-say
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