While restaurants saw sales plummet during the height of the pandemic, Americans proved how much they were looking forward to dining out again once vaccination rates rose and positive COVID cases started to fall. By July 2021, OpenTable reported that reservations had returned to normal after plunging by two-thirds during the pandemic.
“Households are getting out and enjoying themselves after being cooped up for over a year,” chief economist Stephen Stanley of Amherst Pierpont Securities told MarketWatch at the time.
And things are only looking up for the industry. According to recent data from Morning Consult, 75 percent of U.S. adults said they are comfortable going out to eat at a restaurant. If you happen to own a casual dining establishment, it’s even better: The global fast casual restaurants market is expected to grow by $186.27 billion during 2022-2026.
Looking for some ideas to help your casual dining establishment thrive? Here are five design trends you should consider using in your own location to boost sales.
Comfort and color are crucial
Although people are ready to dine out again, they also became accustomed to eating in the comfort of their own homes during the pandemic. With that in mind, you’ll want to make your eatery as warm and inviting as possible. Furniture that allows diners to relax while enjoying their meal is key, along with choosing warmer color palettes for your décor. Psychological studies show these hues increase heart rates and excitement, which will then stimulate hunger.
Outdoors is still popular
According to Morning Consult, a whopping 82 percent of Americans feel comfortable eating outside. As a result, many establishments have made their outdoor spaces usable throughout all four seasons via the use of tents, heaters, and fans. Of course, it’s important to advertise that you offer outdoor dining space year-round using signage. Think cost-efficient signage options like easy-care acrylic sign holders or DIY signage such as acrylic sheets with removable – hence changeable for specials – chalk markers.
Takeout and delivery also got a boost during the pandemic, and the trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down. A JD Power survey found that 71 percent of consumers said they would continue to order delivery as much as or more than they had during the pandemic. Many restaurants are making the option easier with walk-up windows, allowing customers and delivery drivers to pick up food without ever having to enter the venue. And adding it doesn’t have to be a big deal. Simply use an existing window or sliding windows to make it work for you. Alternately, craft a pop up pickup station just inside/or outside the establishment.
Space it out
People will also feel more comfortable dining in your establishment if you space tables out, so diners don’t feel crowded next to one another while they eat. If you’re short on space, think about plastic dividers – customers are accustomed to them – between tables. Make barrier use less noticeable with a custom logo or your restaurant’s name printed on them. Or consider switching to higher seat backs to create more defined space between tables.
Room for technology
Diners are not only welcoming technology into their dining experience but expecting it as well. It makes things easier for both you and them. QR codes on tables that link to your menu, as well as contactless payments platform, can help limit interaction with servers while make table turnaround times shorter. Consider customized and clean acrylic blocks with your drink and food menu QR code printed on them or use acrylic sign holders and insert printed paper signage with the QR code. Either way, changing the menu is effortless and cleanup is a breeze.
Implementing one or all these tips will ensure your establishment is top of mind for patrons when selecting their dining destination. These ideas just may provide the comfort your customers crave that will keep them coming back for more. Who doesn’t want repeat business and loyal, satisfied customers? At shopPOPdisplays, we customize to your specifications.