Trend-driven innovation opportunities for 2021: Episode 7

 Special Occasion Dining

Throughout the early 2000’s, the meal became more of a chore – a box to tick off during the day. With all the cooking at home going on during the COVID-19 pandemic, dining out is starting to feel super special occasion again—tasting menus with wine pairings are a fun step in the opposite direction. In response to all that has happened last year, 2021 will bring two polarizing approaches to dining. One that embraces the need for simpler, comforting and soul-nourishing cuisine and the other that functions as an escape and embraces frivolousness.

  • Simpler
  • Comforting
  • Soul-Nourishing

Unimaginable changes to the dining out experience. Twelve months ago, we could eat indoors all across the country. We tried sips of each other’s drinks, sometimes ate with our hands, and using hand sanitizer at the table was reserved for the greatest of germaphobes among us.

Below are four of the biggest changes you’re going to see in restaurants this year.

Menus will stay smaller and more specialized

To account for losses in sales, restaurants will pare their menus down to just the best selections, so that kitchens can be more productive. We’ve already seen this trend taking off last year, with fast food chains discontinuing dozens of menu items.

We’ll get back to breakfast on the go

Forbes points out that 60% of employees expect to be back in the office by the end of Q1, with more people coming back to work as the year progresses and the public gets vaccinated in larger numbers. Those commuters will also return to the drive-thru window for a quick on-the-go breakfast. After a year of eating the same breakfasts from our fridges and pantries every morning, we’ll all be glad for some more exciting hand-held options.

We’ll be drinking cleaner cocktails

The rise of low-ABV drinks like hard seltzers and alternatives to spirits signal a new era of imbibing, where alcohol is kept at a minimum and cocktails are enjoyed as healthy beverages. And we can expect to see this trend cross over to restaurant menus this year.

Comfort foods will be back in style

Based on observations of last year, in times of turmoil our food preferences shift from healthy to comforting. And the comfort food comeback is here to stay, people just want to gather and socialize while feeling safe—so instead of obsessing over a rare new super-seed, restaurants will move forward by providing guests with feel-good food and genuine hospitality, filling the need for comfort and warmth during these extraordinary times.

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