The restaurant industry may still be recovering from whiplash after dealing with the constant sway of pandemic-fueled consumer demands over the past three years. In 2023 and beyond, though, it’s essential that food and beverage companies look to the future, and not make essential decisions based on the past.

For example, 84% of consumers now say that they would much prefer heading out to eat with their loved ones, versus making — and then cleaning up — meals at home. That’s according to the 2023 State of the Restaurant Industry report,[1] which also found that 47% of food operators say competition will be fiercer in 2023 than it was in 2022.

Food companies that hope to stay ahead of the game — and therefore ahead of the competition — need to prepare. To move forward and adapt to what customers really want, food and beverage companies should keep the following in mind.

Loyal Customers are Okay with (Some) Price Increases

Customers who have found a restaurant they enjoy are willing to stick with them through the tough times, even if that means dealing with an increase in costs for their favorite meals. The magic number appears to be a hike between 1 and 10%, as 55% of consumers admit that this is the highest they’d be willing to tolerate.[2] Since 92% of restaurants in one survey planned to increase their menu prices in 2023,[3] it’s smart to have an idea of exactly how much more patrons are willing to spend. (It’s worth noting that in the same survey, that same 92% of restaurants were planning average increases of 8%, which is within the acceptable customer range.)

As the food and beverage industry continues to deal with increasing food and labor costs, passing some of those rising costs on to the customer only makes sense. Even though consumers are willing to take the hit (to a certain extent), it’s always a good idea to combine rising prices with phenomenal customer service to keep customers coming back.

Reviews Continue to be Restaurant Gold

In news that’s not shocking but is worth repeating: Reviews drive business. In fact, nearly nine out of 10 consumers in one survey admitted that they do their best to check out the reviews for a local business before shopping.[4]

Some customers may be happy to leave reviews just because they care, while for others, a little incentive can go a long way. Offering benefits for leaving reviews is one way to draw them in. If you’d like to do so, consumer rate discounts and flexible pricing are attractive offers.[5]

Make More of Your Online Space

Consumers don’t just expect their online meal ordering and offerings to go swimmingly, they demand it. To start, customers say they’re comfortable with and expect technology to play a role in their ordering and paying.[5] Additionally, online food ordering also now makes up 40% of total restaurant sales, a 300% growth over in-restaurant dining since 2014.[6]

Luckily, restaurant owners already seem to have this customer want in mind, with 61% saying that online food delivery will be made available directly through their restaurant in 2023 (this is an increase of 12% from 2022 numbers).[2] Updating your payment systems to handle the onslaught could be necessary to avoid costly issues. For example, although cash, credit, and debit cards remain popular payment methods, 65% of customers in one survey had also made a payment through digital wallet options.[7]

For more on payment technology solutions — and the 2023 Economic Outlook and Restaurant Payment Trends — check out the replay of our recent webcast on the topic here.

Food and Beverage Can — and Should — Be About More Than Restaurant Offerings

When you think about food and beverage companies in the traditional sense, of course, restaurants come to mind. But while restaurants are a big part of it, food and beverage companies that focus solely on dining experiences are missing out on the potential for extra revenue.

For example, many food and beverage businesses can expand their appeal by branching out to consumers with retail options, as well. In fact, 88% of restaurant owners in one survey expected to add new services and/or products to their services in 2023, which was up from 50% the year before.[2] Whether it is customer favorites bottled up and ready to be brought home, or clothing, hats, or other merchandising, 44% of customers bought an item other than their meal at restaurants last year, and in 2023 that number was expected to go up by 10%.[2]

Food and beverage businesses that branch out by offering products outside of what they have on the traditional menu can see multiple benefits in this type of marketing. Not only does it offer an additional revenue source and new and unique ways for your repeat customers to get more of what they love, but it’s also an opportunity for free marketing. You never know whether friends and family who see, taste, and partake in these extra experiences will be swayed to try your business out for themselves.

Keep Curbside Pick-up in the Mix

Offering curbside pick-up may have been the brainchild of restaurants looking to offer additional contactless food delivery options during the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean that customers want that option to go away as the pandemic ends.

Along with delivery and in-restaurant dining, customers are still clinging to curbside pick-up as part of their routines. Consider these numbers: 58% of people say they’re more likely to pick a restaurant that offers curbside, 54% of customers would plop down more cash because of it (this number becomes 80% when you’re talking about just Millennials), and 43% say it makes them more loyal.[8] In a world where every little bit matters, it seems curbside is worth keeping around.

If we’ve learned anything from the past few years, it’s that consumer wants can shift swiftly, and options are everything. Rather than focusing on one area, food and beverage companies that can adapt and remain flexible will be more likely to make the most of the latest and greatest consumer trends.