The majority of U.S. restaurants (79%) report that their revenue is steady or growing, but a 34% average increase in their labor costs this year is eating into profitability and impacting hungry consumers. More than half are adopting new technology, including artificial intelligence, to manage labor deficits and costs as they work to meet strong consumer demand. This is according to Popmenu’s latest nationwide research on U.S. restaurant leaders and consumers.
The majority (75%) of consumers dine at or order carryout/delivery from restaurants at least once a week. Convenience is a key motivator for two-thirds of consumers, especially as their schedules grow increasingly busier: 38% say they don’t have time to cook, up from 28% last year. One in four consumers say restaurant dining has just become a way of life.
5 Restaurant Dining Trends to Watch
- Willingness to pay for a table: Consumers can expect more competition for restaurant tables in the coming months—29% have tipped a host/hostess to get a table faster. Nearly half (46%) say they are willing to pay for a reservation.
- Dialing back on dessert, alcohol and more: As consumers contend with inflation and tighter household budgets, 42% are reducing money spent on dessert, 35% on alcohol, 35% on appetizers, and 30% on side dishes.
- More demand for healthy fast food: 89% of consumers eat fast food at least once a week while more than half eat fast food two times or more per week; 38% of consumers say they typically choose healthy options when eating fast food.
- More tech-enabled hospitality: 55% of restaurant operators are implementing new technology to help with the labor shortage, from marketing and answering phones to online ordering and online reservations.
- Shorter hours: 44% of restaurant operators have reduced their hours, which may be a permanent operational decision—the majority say they’ve been able to generate the same amount of revenue with reduced hours.
“Restaurants have become part of the weekly, if not daily, routine for many consumers—which creates both opportunity and challenge,” says Brendan Sweeney, CEO and Co-founder of Popmenu. “Restaurants are understaffed. More than half are concerned about new minimum wage requirements for delivery drivers. You’ll see restaurants continue to evolve their tech stack to create more efficient and cost-effective operations, so they can keep consumers engaged and scale their business.”
Popmenu conducted an anonymous, nationwide study of 426 single-location and multi-location restaurant owners and operators from July 18 to August 13, 2023. In addition, Popmenu conducted an anonymous, nationwide study of 1,000 U.S. consumers from August 16 to August 17, 2023.