As foot traffic trickled away during the pandemic and the restaurant industry pivoted to off-premises channels, major chains lost their appetite for locations inside big-box retail stores.
There’s no getting around it: Despite driving sales progressively higher through off-premises channels, the restaurant industry had to eat some heavy losses in 2020. Even big chains took a big hit. According to the market research firm Technomic, the $304 billion generated by the 500 largest chains last year marks a $27 billion drop from 2019.1
But it turns out that bigger has proved to be better during the pandemic. The lion’s share of sales last year went to the 50 largest chains, which had the advantage of having already incorporated robust drive-thru, delivery and digital capabilities.1
The challenges of 2020, including business closures and social distancing guidelines, catapulted the demand for takeout and delivery to new heights over the past year—and may have forever changed consumers’ relationship with the foodservice industry. Indeed, more than half (53%) of consumers surveyed by the National Restaurant Association say takeout and delivery have become "essential to the way they live.”1
Topics: Technology, Marketing & Communications, Independents, Takeout, Regional, Pies/Tarts, Business & Industry, Commercial, Quick Service Restaurant, Casual Dining Restaurant, Delivery, National, Local, Social Media, Family, Labor, Convenience, Foodservice Industry, Customer Experience, Consumer, Distribution, Menu Strategy, Packaging, Sales & Profitability, Delivery App, COVID-19, Coronavirus, Curbside Pickup, Fast-Casual Restaurant, Off-Premises, Consumer Behavior, Ghost Kitchens, Design, Digital/Online Ordering, Signage, Shareables, Third-Party Delivery (3PD)
The pandemic put the brakes on in-store traffic for a protracted and painful stretch of time, but it also amplified an already ravenous hunger for social and digital engagement with foodservice. Pre-pandemic, visually appealing items became viral sensations. (Think Starbucks' limited time Unicorn Frappucino, which showed almost unlimited viral appeal.)
The pandemic marked one of the worst periods in the history of the restaurant business, but it brought out the industry’s best too. Sales sank and restaurants were shuttered, but while many operators struggled to make money, others managed to make a difference. Here are just a few of the standouts whose inspiring goodwill and creative thinking made an especially bad time better for many people.