The pandemic has changed just about every element of the hotel experience—both back of house and front of house—and restaurants are no exception. We reached out to several insiders to get their insights on how restaurants are adjusting, and what trends will have staying power.
1. Paperless Menus
QR codes linking menus to smartphones is a convenience that has been embraced by guests, said Matt Rinehart, VP of food & beverage with HRI Lodging. “While it will never fully replace traditional menus, it is a feature that will likely become a guest expectation.”
2. Clean Entryways
Stan Kennedy, COO of Remington Hotels, said hotels will keep hand sanitizing products by the doorways. “Sanitation wipes and hand sanitizers at all of the entrances to the outlets is critical,” he said.
3. High-Tech Air Purification
Scientific’s needlepoint bipolar ionization technology by GPS helps sanitize indoor air, said Kellie Sirna, co-founder of Studio 11 Design. “While the new systems for safer dining won’t always be visible, they will become an important part of our vernacular.”
4. Outdoor Spaces Reimagined
The Westin Bayshore Vancouver in British Columbia will introduce distanced snow globes for guests to stay warm and safely distant while they dine, according to Dana Pellicano, VP of food & beverage experience at Marriott International.
5. Indoor/Outdoor Concepts
At the Jaxon Texas Kitchen & Beer Garden in Texas, Studio 11 created windowed walls with winterizing touches like outdoor fire pits and heat lamps to blur the lines between indoor and outdoor dining.
6. Larger Tables
Tables for one or two people are generally used by business travelers, Kennedy noted. With more families on the road for leisure, restaurants will need more family-sized tables.
7. The Future of Roomservice?
“In most upper-market properties, full-service roomservice has been replaced by ‘to go’ packaged deliveries to guest rooms,” Reinhart said. “This is likely to remain.”
8. Communal Tables Return
Kennedy said the recent trend of long communal tables will make a return once strangers can sit closely together again. “People want to be around people,” he noted.
9. The Rebirth of Buffets
Kennedy also expects buffets to return in a modified form as staffed stations rather than self-serve to keep things as clean as possible.
10. Copper Design
“Because copper has been proven effective at eradicating surface germs,” Sima said, “restaurants will increasingly seek to integrate copper touchpoints in high-traffic areas where tactility is paramount.”
11. Local Partners
“We will see a renewed emphasis on partnerships with these local suppliers that also connect guests with a sense of place,” Pellicano said.
12. Enhanced Creativity
“With fewer off-property options, guests are placing an enhanced expectation on quality and creativity and are expecting the availability of locally produced spirits, beer, wine and menus,” Rinehart said.
13. Healthy requests
Kennedy is seeing increased demand for “healthier fresh top food items” as travelers must stay home from the gym and tire of prepackaged meals.
14. Meat alternatives
As interest and demand in imitation meats increase, Marriott hotel restaurants are introducing more plant-based menu items, Pellicano said.
15. Third-Party Ordering
Rinehart expects to see more hotel companies leverage partnerships with apps, like Wyndham Hotels & Resorts partnership with DoorDash, to facilitate food-and-beverage needs.
16. Enhanced Back of House
To keep staff and guests alike safe throughout the pandemic and in the future, Kennedy said hotel restaurants will provide “a great deal of enhanced training on the proper protocols of sanitation and [personal protective equipment].”
17. Premade Cocktails
Ready-to-drink cocktails are the fastest growing spirits category for the past year, Pellicano said, as consumers seek for cleanliness, consistency and flexibility.
18. Take-Away Options
HRI is making full meals, kits for preparing signature pastas and meats from its butcher partners available for customers to purchase for the hotel experience at home, Rinehart said.
19. Upgraded Grab-and-Go
Restaurateurs are adapting their experiences for the grab-and-go era, Pellicano said. The Rhett Restaurant at The Alida, Savannah (Ga.) has introduced a picnic basket menu with charcuterie and craft cocktail pouches.
20. Package Liquor Sales
“The opportunity to include a bottle of wine, beer or cocktail components with ‘to go’ orders is an easy revenue enhancement and guest convenience,” Rinehart said.