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As 2023 draws to a close, restaurant operators and restaurant owners like you are looking forward to the coming year. In particular, they’re paying attention to the latest restaurant industry trends — these emerging patterns provide a hint about what’s on the horizon. When you know what to expect, it’s easier to adapt your operations accordingly.

What does 2024 have in store? Let’s take a closer look at the restaurant trends that will shape food service, menu items, and the dining experience in the next 12 months. 

Keeping your finger on the pulse of the restaurant industry

Technology and innovation are shaping market sectors across the globe, and the food industry is no exception. In today’s fast-paced dining landscape, you must adapt to stay relevant. After all, restaurant industry trends tend to impact what customers expect from their favorite establishments. If you can meet their demands, it can result in higher revenue and improved profit margins.

By staying informed about the latest food and restaurant trends — and finding the right time to get on board — you can position your business for long-term success.

4 restaurant industry trends

As you plan updates to your operations, restaurant marketing plan, and menu items for 2024, keep the top industry trends in mind. That way, you can ensure your business stays ahead of the curve.

1. Restaurant technology advancements

Technology continues to drive many restaurant industry trends. Updated software and cutting-edge devices make dining easier, both for restaurants and customers. This is particularly true when it comes to how your guests place and pay for their meals. Mobile ordering is continuing to rise in popularity, particularly at airport restaurants and other quick-service restaurants — diners can order on their phones in advance and spend less time waiting. Plus, when customers place orders on their own, it reduces errors and improves operational efficiency.

Payment technology is also changing the food industry; in 2024, contactless payments are a must. Customers are increasingly accustomed to tap-to-pay systems such as Apple Pay or Google Pay. In fact, in 2022, Apple Pay saw $6 trillion in payments around the world. If your restaurant’s payment terminal doesn’t accept these methods, it’s time to upgrade. A quick-tap system speeds transaction times and keeps customers moving smoothly.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Technology is also driving other trends we’ve seen this year, including online ordering and digital loyalty programs.

2. Consumer preferences

Consumer preferences are always changing, and in 2024, restaurants will keep pace with these demands by offering a personalized experience. It’s why AI in restaurants is so popular; by using sophisticated data analytics, restaurant owners can identify patterns and respond quickly. You can also use AI to create personalized food recommendations, streamline customer service, and send custom marketing emails.

Some personalization efforts are driven by traditional tactics. Customizable menu items are a staple for quick service restaurants. Restaurants are listening to diners’ feedback, reading reviews, engaging on social media, and tracking restaurant brand mentions to find out what customers want. That information helps them adapt the dining experience to changing preferences and behaviors.

3. Food delivery and takeout

Food delivery and takeout peaked in 2020 at the height of the social distancing era, but they’re still among the top restaurant trends for 2024. Customers love the flexibility of online ordering — in 2023, restaurants used this technology to improve the dining experience and drive a sales increase of 17%.

If you’re not currently using an online ordering system for your delivery and takeout operation, now’s the time to start. Most restaurants in the United States use an average of three platforms to reach the widest possible range of food delivery customers. These systems also give you the option to test new menu items via virtual restaurants and ghost kitchens.

Once you have a system in place, it’s important to link to it from your website, social media profiles, food marketing campaigns, and digital advertisements. A quick link is an effective way to capture customers’ business when they’re paying attention and in the mood to order.

4. Sustainability

The push for sustainability has been gaining steam over the past few years, and in 2024, it’s poised to be one of the top trends in the food service industry. About 44% of Americans have a “great deal” of worry about the environment. This concern carries over to their purchasing decisions; 57% of consumers consider sustainability when choosing a restaurant.

Whether you’re running a ghost kitchen or a traditional brick-and-mortar business, it’s important to find ways to make your restaurant operation more sustainable. Many restaurants are implementing composting and recycling, choosing biodegradable takeout containers, and reducing food waste.

Don’t forget to advertise your sustainability practices — share them with customers on social media and in person to drive more revenue and build a stronger emotional connection to your brand.

Be a leader, not a follower

Successful restaurant owners understand that while it’s critical to stay up to date on the latest food and restaurant trends, it’s also important to move with caution. Not every trend will be right for your restaurant; you must identify which industry shifts are permanent and which will have the biggest impact on your bottom line. If you can stay one step ahead, it’s easier to deliver top-notch services and keep your restaurant relevant.

Grubhub can help; in addition to offering an industry-leading online ordering and delivery platform, we provide the latest tools for promotions, loyalty programs, and marketing. Plus, you’ll get access to tips and resources that help you get a leg up on the competition.Want to learn more about what a partnership with Grubhub looks like? See for yourself by signing up today!