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Emerging and Ongoing Restaurant Statistics for Business Growth

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Justin GuinnAuthor

The restaurant industry is fast-paced and competitive. Restaurateurs have to take every advantage they can to stretch margins and protect profits.

Staying on top of new trends in restaurant management can help — same goes for the latest food trends.

Advancements in restaurant technology can help operators streamline order processing while injecting automations to help control labor costs and food waste. Ever-evolving food trends and consumer behavior can have a huge impact on delivering great customer experiences with trendy menu items.

In this article, you will learn about new data-driven food service insights and initiatives that can help operators boost sales and deliver great restaurant experiences.

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Restaurant Operator Insights Report

See insights from real restaurant operators which can help you benchmark your current and planned restaurant technology stack against your peers as we head into 2024 and beyond.

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Restaurant industry trends impacting operators in 2024 and beyond

Here are a few insights to help restaurateurs optimize operations — a mix of Toast’s in-house data analytics and third-party restaurant industry trends.

Inflation continues to be a top pain point

For the second year in a row, restaurant operators have identified inflation as their top pain point. The rising costs of ingredients, labor, and operational expenses pose significant challenges for the industry.

Restaurant owners must find innovative ways to navigate these difficult economic conditions while maintaining profitability.

Menu prices on the rise

In 2023, a higher percentage of restaurants raised their menu prices compared to the previous year.

According to Toast's survey, 42% of restaurants implemented price increases, up from 37% in 2022. 

Adjusting menu prices strategically is essential to offset inflation and sustain financial health — but at the same time, guests will strive to find an affordable balance in their dining options.

Throughput as a critical priority

Toast research found that among restaurants with a gross merchandise volume (GMV) of $1 million or more, increasing throughput emerged as the top pain point.

Enhancing operational efficiency and streamlining processes to serve more customers is a key focus for these establishments. Contactless ordering and payments powered by QR codes can help streamline order efficiency. The same can be true for self-service kiosks for dine-in and takeout.

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Harnessing consumer preferences for restaurant discovery

Restaurant discovery can vary widely across different demographics — making it critical for restaurants to be intentional about their marketing efforts.

Some strategies are more effective than others when it comes to generating new guests across demographics. For example, Toast research into restaurant customer demographics found that almost three times as many restaurant guests with kids discovered their most recent new restaurant via restaurant social media marketing efforts.

Loyalty programs remain paramount — though a bit more so for QSRs

Loyalty rewards programs have gained significant traction, with Toast research finding that 37% of guests expressing the expectation for restaurants to offer such programs.

Fast food, cafes, pizzerias, breweries, and fine dining establishments are where guests predominantly anticipate loyalty and rewards programs.

A Deloitte survey also reveals that 47% of guests use loyalty programs several times a month, and 32% use them several times a week.

FSR and QSR operations offer vastly different customer experiences, so it makes sense that the must-have restaurant technology would vary.

For example, more restaurant customers consider loyalty and rewards and online ordering as must-haves for QSRs than they do for FSRs. For FSRs, reviews and reservations are more often must-haves than for QSRs.

Peak transaction hours

In the 17 major metropolitan areas (MSAs) surveyed by a Toast study, 7 p.m. emerged as the busiest time for guests to place orders in nearly all locations, except for Miami.

This insight highlights the importance of optimizing staffing and operations during peak hours to meet customer demand effectively.

Popular reservation days

According to data from the Toast Tables platform in Q3 2023, Saturday was the most popular day of the week for reservations, closely followed by Friday and Sunday.

Restaurant operators should pay attention to these trends to maximize revenue and manage table availability effectively.

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The growing catering market

The catering market is projected to reach $72.67 billion by the end of 2023, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.2%. By 2032, it is estimated to reach a staggering $124.36 billion.

This presents a significant opportunity for restaurants to tap into the catering segment and expand their customer base.

Increasing restaurant expansion plans

The survey conducted by Toast indicates a positive outlook for restaurant expansion.

Approximately 29% of restaurants expressed a strong likelihood of expanding their locations in the next 12 months, up from just 17% in 2022. This optimism reflects the resilience and confidence within the industry.

Embracing online ordering preferences

A considerable percentage of surveyed guests, especially older generations, showed a preference for online ordering directly from a restaurant's own website rather than using third-party apps for delivery services.

This shift may highlight the importance of investing in user-friendly online ordering platforms to cater to customer preferences for digital dining experiences.

Prioritizing employee training to combat labor shortages

Toast research shows that employee training remains at the top of the priority list for restaurant management in the upcoming year. 

Well-trained staff members contribute to a positive guest experience, improved operational efficiency, and increased customer satisfaction.

Food trends influencing restaurant operations and menu items for 2024

Toast is able to analyze menu item trends on food popularity, menu prices, and more from our ordering systems. Take a look at these customer data trends that can help improve guest experiences.

Leveraging food and drink trends in NFL cities

The NFL season presents an opportunity for restaurants in team cities to stay on top of food and drink trends and capitalize on increased sales. Here are some insights gleaned from Toast research

Chicken wings are the most popular game day food in NFL cities during the season, with a 25% increase in average order volume on Sundays in season.

Hard seltzers are the most popular game day alcohol in these cities, with a 47% increase in order volume on Sundays.

Green Bay experienced the highest increase in restaurant spend during the NFL season, with a 27% increase in food sales and a staggering 169% increase in alcohol sales on in-season Sundays.

Week 5 of the season (10/8) recorded the highest food and alcohol sales at Toast restaurants, with a 7% increase over the in-season Sunday average. Check our insights on all 30 NFL cities for more details.

Robust Valentine's Day sales

Toast research shows that Valentine's Day 2023 was lucrative for the restaurant industry, with a surge of 34% in overall foodservice sales attributed to food compared to the annual daily average.

The day saw a 1% increase in total food items sold, indicating that guests purchased more expensive items than usual.

Steaks experienced the biggest surge in spending, with guests spending more than double (+108%) the daily average, resulting in $191,000 in sales versus $92,000. And wine sales also experienced significant growth, with a 248% increase compared to average daily sales.

Differences in restaurant target market demographics

Different customer demographics have specific priorities when selecting restaurants.

Baby Boomers and older demographics prioritize affordability, while urban diners value online ordering and food delivery convenience with Millennials and Generation X.

Suburban and rural diners also prioritize affordability, matching their preferences of baby boomers and older demographics.

Restaurants looking to target Gen Z and younger demographics should consider having quicker service models like Toast's New Steps of Service that streamline customer experiences in full-service (FSR) and quick-service restaurants (QSR).

How can operators respond to restaurant management and food trends in 2024?

As the restaurant industry continues to evolve, staying informed about the latest trends and consumer preferences is essential for effective management.

Inflation, menu pricing, throughput optimization, peak transaction hours, reservation patterns, catering market growth, expansion plans, online ordering preferences, employee training, and demographic targeting are the top 10 trends shaping restaurant management for 2024 and beyond.

By embracing these trends, restaurant operators can position their establishments for success in an ever-changing landscape.

Implementing a POS system built for restaurants

Evolving restaurant technologies can help streamline front-of-house operations while also helping the back-of-house take control of costs.

Digital menus, mobile apps, and other technological advancements in the restaurant industry may be valuable for satisfying consumer preferences. Restaurants can turn up loyalty programs, gift cards, email marketing, and other marketing forms to engage with specific, high-value customer demographics.

Operators can utilize their restaurant reservation tool to engage with guests and get them coming back for more.

Employee tools, such as payroll, team management, and scheduling can help operators uncover valuable trends in labor costs and employee retention.

And food cost control tools can empower the back-of-house to track fluctuating ingredient costs and manage supplier orders. 

And it’s all the better if ALL of these tools are tied into the restaurant point of sale (POS) system, such as with Toast.

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DISCLAIMER: This information is provided for general informational purposes only, and publication does not constitute an endorsement. Toast does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information, text, graphics, links, or other items contained within this content. Toast does not guarantee you will achieve any specific results if you follow any advice herein. It may be advisable for you to consult with a professional such as a lawyer, accountant, or business advisor for advice specific to your situation.