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The Past, Present, and Future of the Restaurant and Hospitality Industry

By Stacy L. GilbertNew York City Office Managing Partner,Restaurant & Hospitality Practice Co-Leader .

While we remain in the grey area, the state of the restaurant and hospitality industry is particularly unknown. New York City Office Managing Partner and Restaurant and Hospitality Practice Co-Leader, Stacy Gilbert, maps out her predictions and thoughts on the future of this industry, and how it can thrive. 

Is the hospitality industry growing?

As the effects of COVID-19 subside, the industry is expected to continue growing as consumers increase spending on discretionary purchases, such as outdoor dining, outdoor events, and travel, including hotel stays. It is also quite possible that as consumers attain comfort and confidence they will likely make a renewed effort to support the hospitality industry after the dramatic downturn that left many businesses with financial hardship.

Many in the industry are already considering growth and seeking to add locations due more available space at an affordable price. The unfortunate amount of closures could actually cause the survivors to thrive.

What has the pandemic changed?

Since many businesses in the industry had to pivot and reinvent their revenue streams, we can expect many restaurants to introduce new product lines and to continue to invest in technology. It is essential to have an online presence due to the amount of time consumers now spend on their desktops, tablets, and smartphones. For example, the use of food delivery services skyrocketed during the pandemic and I do not expect that to change. Selling ingredients packaged with recipes and prepared family meals has become a source of income for many restaurants and I do not expect consumers to reduce these purchases due to the convenience this offered. With the increased need for technology, every business will need to continue to invest in and look for opportunities to incorporate e-commerce and online events into their business model, making sure their customers are directly in mind.

What will things look like moving forward?

Consumers will inch their way back to what used to be considered a normal way of life. They will cautiously experience the social interaction that they have been craving, which can include food and beverages at their favorite restaurant, going to the movies, attending events, or making travel plans. Once these baby steps are taken, it won’t be long before the public starts to feel rejuvenated and will continue to yearn for more.

While consumers are taking steps to get back into the swing of things, the hospitality industry will be licking its wounds and treading lightly with their business decisions before feeling like “business as usual.” Eventually, confidence will be achieved when the industry experiences a trend that implies sustainability. For some, this can be a rapid turnaround, but for many, this will be an incremental process that might force operators to make swift decisions and to be prepared for any possible outcome. If they have learned anything, it is to be ready for the worst.

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