Improving the Dining Experience
Now that many COVID restrictions are ending, people are interested in going back to restaurants for meals, but they're expecting a significant step up from the home-cooked meals they've enjoyed the past two years.
According to a survey conducted last year, 75 percent of people say they're willing to spend more money on unique dining experiences when going to restaurants. A "unique dining experience" can include many things from the atmosphere, entertainment, or even the food on the menu.
Outdoor dining is one unique experience restaurants embraced during the pandemic because it lowered the risk of COVID transmission. While indoor dining may be permitted in most places now, many customers will still want to enjoy the spring and summer weather during their meals.
The indoor atmosphere is still key in influencing the dining experience. About two-thirds of people who eat meals away from home do so with other people. These people are interested in talking with others in their party, and would prefer eating in restaurants that are set up to better facilitate conversations, such as no loud music or televisions being played in the background.
There's also a growing list of people who enjoy eating out alone. For instance, Datassential says 41 percent of millennials ate their last meal away from home alone. People are more open to solo dining than in the past, so restaurants should consider creating either seating arrangements or deals that cater specifically to one-person parties.
Pop-up restaurants, ghost kitchens, and virtual brands emerged in the last few years taking advantage of digital technology and social media buzz to create new experiences for their customers. Creating a visually-engaging atmosphere or unique menu items that can are instagrammable are also key in today's dining experience.
Being unique may also mean making it simpler for the customer. Nearly 60 percent of restaurant meals are eaten off-premises, which means people are still taking advantage of delivery, takeout, and drive-thrus. Making it easier for these dining options can also appeal to customers. For instance, 56 percent of people say they'd be interested in a restaurant with self-service kiosks or other cashier-less opportunities.
Menus can also significantly influence a unique dining experience. Datassential says 80 percent of consumers stick to familiar foods when cooking meals at home. But when going out to eat, diners are more interested in trying new dishes they can't make at home. That means it's important for operators to ensure their menu offerings represent a step up from what people could make with their at-home cookbooks.
After two years of pandemic restrictions, Americans are looking for their restaurant dining experiences to be a step up from what they've grown to expect at home. Foodservice operators need to ensure they're delivering an experience that matches those heightened expectations.
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