Restaurants Face Challenges with Changes in Dining Experience

By Natalie Jones / 10.22.20 / 3 min read

The retail sector of commercial real estate has faced drastic adjustments over the course of the pandemic as highlighted by trends among restaurants. According to the National Restaurant Association, 100,000 restaurants across the country are expected to close by the end of this year. With changes in how customers view the safety of dining out, there are national and local implications that provide a strong indication of the future for food service.

What are the nationwide customer trends for restaurants?

Since the pandemic’s onset, restaurants in the U.S. have dealt with lower staffing and higher operational costs. Nearly 60% of adults used takeout or delivery for dinner during a previous week, yet 65% of adults have done this on a weekly basis since May. The preference for ordering outside of a restaurant is now based perceived safety of these methods in addition to convenience.

More customers have the mindset that eating at a restaurant, especially inside, is not completely safe at this time, explaining the rise in takeout and delivery. One more method is also impacted by this belief: drive-thrus.

An annual SeeLevel HX study found that average drive-thru times across 10 fast-food chains slowed down by 29.8 seconds this year. The longer wait time is due to increased traffic from customers who think this is the safest option. In response to this, chains such as Starbucks and Chipotle Mexican Grill have created more drive-thru lanes to speed up service.

However, a positive comes in the form of faster service times. Restaurants have reduced their menu sizes with the intention of facilitating kitchen and service operations. Ultimately, food service across the country has adapted to new customer preferences.

What are the local customer trends for restaurants?

Two main issues affect restaurants in the Greater Lansing area: reactions about restaurants’ exposures to COVID-19 and cold weather.

With growing concerns about restaurant safety, customers have quickly reacted to news of positive COVID-19 cases among employees. Consequently, affected restaurants have experienced a decrease in customer traffic even when cleared to return to normal operations following a temporary closing.

Restaurants may also lose customers to the incoming cold weather. Outdoor patios — a space that some customers believe are safer than dining inside — have helped restaurants continue their business. Crunchy’s in East Lansing has heaters for its patio on the way according to owner Mike Kreuger. Other owners throughout Greater Lansing are evaluating their options to combat the expected drop in customer traffic.

With a growing preference for ordering food outside a restaurant and the findings observed on a local scale, restaurants will continue to consider changes in customer behavior to sustain their business. To read our sources on restaurant trends, click here:

100,000 Restaurants On Track to Close This Year

Drive-thru times at fast-food chains slow by nearly 30 seconds as demand soars during pandemic, study finds

COVID-19 outbreaks at Lansing area eateries minimal, but most people still dining outside