The Future of Menus in a Post-COVID-19 World

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

After weeks of navigating through the challenges posed by lockdown, the hospitality industry has begun to open its doors again and welcome back consumers with a sense of optimism and excitement.

Woman paying in restaurant

It’s never been a more important time for menus to work harder and many businesses will be reviewing their dishes, looking to understand how to re-engineer menu options and simplify operations. The first of 3 articles cover what consumers are likely to be expecting from eating out post-lockdown and how to cater to their demands while remaining profitable.

New restaurant trends: top 4 changes

Although it’s still early days, recent research is starting to shed light on key changes expected by pub and restaurant consumers and possible menu trends that will affect the way businesses approach their operations.

1. Customers are keen to come back to favourite venues

As the doors reopen, after spending weeks at home, consumers will be excited to try their favourite dishes again.

  • 44% of consumers plan to return to hospitality venues in the first few weeks post-opening.1

2. Quality is key

It’s unlikely many businesses will be able to provide the full list of choices offered before the pandemic. Changes due to operational restrictions and new safety and hygiene regulations mean now is the time to focus on quality.

Dish quality and overall experience are linked to perceived value and while consumers will be expecting some changes due to recent events, they’re unlikely to be willing to compromise on the quality of their food.

  • 45% of consumers say the quality of food available in venues is more important to them vs pre-lockdown.2

3. Value for money is expected, but not necessarily more for less

With many consumers being furloughed in lockdown, there’s likely to be an increased awareness of value for money, but this doesn’t have to mean low price points or large portion sizes. Although many are expecting a trend where consumers will want more for less when they return, this isn’t necessarily the case.

  • Less than a third of people (31%) are interested in a venue’s deals and offers once reopen; a 12% decrease vs before lockdown.2

4. Streamlined pub and restaurant menus

Reducing the number of dishes and focussing on the most popular, margin-friendly options will help with prep time and wastage as well as the overall quality of the remaining dishes served.

For many businesses, 20% of the menu is responsible for 80% of the spend, so although streamlining the menu may seem daunting, it’s unlikely to be received negatively by consumers. With disposable incomes under pressure, many consumers won’t be making big purchases like holidays, so little luxuries like meals out will become even more important and the food quality will make all the difference.


How to adapt menus to the new reality?

Analysing the data will be key to understanding which dishes are performing well after re-opening, and dishes which sold well pre-lockdown may not necessarily see the same results now.

Regularly reviewing the points below will help when deciding which dishes to keep and potential new additions to introduce.

First-hand consumer feedback

Speak to your consumers and ask what they liked or disliked, hand out feedback forms or use online surveys to collate feedback.


Analyse what’s left on the plate, what’s remaining in the kitchen and review the reasons why.

Sales numbers and cash margin

Which dishes are now selling and how are they performing margin-wise with any new supply chain changes?

The top dishes and the reasons for their popularity

The top sellers rarely change on many menus, but there are likely to be common links between the dishes which could help determine new dish options.

The number of ingredients used per dish

Are there many ‘orphan SKUs?’ Cross utilising ingredients helps with waste reduction as well as buying power.

Operational complexity and any dishes with high levels of prep

These are going to impact on speed of service and overall quality of the dish

Upcoming menu trends and suitability

With many consumers choosing to play it safe with their lockdown food choices, they could be more receptive now to new food trends and more adventurous dishes

Although menus may have been streamlined, it’s still a great time to introduce a couple of new options. Limited edition dishes, sauces or accompaniments will give consumers additional reasons to visit; and after weeks of home-cooking, any options that are difficult to make at home will be well received.

After a few weeks of being reopen, it will be easier to understand which dishes are performing well front of house as well as being simple to deliver back of house with the new restrictions, and adding new choices will give consumers a reason to revisit more frequently.


Next, find out how to create a menu that maximises the potential of your dishes with our simple guide.

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  1.  UKH Consumer survey – undertaken by CGA 2. CGA Consumer analysis, April 2020