Restaurant Industry Report Reveals Opportunities for 2020

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BentoBox has released their “Restaurants in 2019” year-in-review report.

This technology company is committed to empowering restaurants, bars and food trucks, offering full-service website design and commerce capabilities to increase traffic and revenue.

In 2019, BentoBox counted more than 5,000 restaurants in 27 countries and all 50 United States as clients, though most are located in America. To compile their report, they analyzed 100,000 menu items, 117,000 online transactions, and 511 million website visits among their clients.

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Some of their findings are surprising. Others reinforce what we know about the direction of the industry.

For example, plant-based meat alternatives took the industry by storm, growing 130 percent in 2019. That growth is impressive but, given the visibility of Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, not shocking.

What is surprising is BentoBox’s revelation that vegan menus experienced a decline in popularity of 52 percent. This may be limited solely to restaurants that offer vegan options alongside others, or this may indicate that some vegan-focused restaurants have experienced this decline.

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We addressed the rise in popularity and importance of zero-proof cocktails several times in 2019, and with good reason. BentoBox found an increase in zero-proof operations among their clients of 109 percent.

An equally hot topic is CBD, the non-psychoactive component of cannabis. Even though it doesn’t get a person high, using CBD in food and drink items can present legal issues. However, BentoBox found 70 percent more CBD options on menus in 2019. Any operator considering offering CBD on their menus should consult their attorney to ensure compliance with regulations.

Speaking of menu items, BentoBox identified the top offerings in six major markets, presented here in alphabetical order:

  • California: Carne asada
  • Florida: Espresso
  • Illinois: Caesar salad
  • New York: Eggplant parm
  • Texas: Avocado toast
  • Washington D.C.: Lobster roll

But BentoBox, due to their platform’s commerce capabilities, was able to provide several other bits of interesting data.

  • Merchandising: Four times more shirts were sold than hats.
  • Most popular website item sold: Ramen Kit by Ichiran, $29 (buy three, get free shipping)
  • Most expensive website item sold: Ultimate Meat Collection by Duke’s Premium Meats, $710

As restaurants seek to stand out and become top of mind with guests, commerce and e-commerce have become viable solutions. BentoBox found an increase of 150 percent in restaurants offering food, beverage and DIY kits for sale.

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Of course, gift cards a major element of restaurant commerce, online and in person. For BentoBox clients, digital gift cards outpaced physical cards. In 2019, 53 percent of gift card sales were digital and 43 percent were physical, and the average amount was $90. The reasons for gift card purchases, in descending order, were:

  1. Birthday
  2. Holiday
  3. Thank you
  4. Anniversary
  5. Just because

Most gift cards were used on Saturdays.

Another popular day for restaurants in 2019 was Monday—the day most catering orders were placed. Operators who offer catering or who are considering doing so should know that Thanksgiving was the most popular holiday for catering orders last year, and the average tip for a catering order was 15.3 percent.

Catering, of course, goes hand in hand with private and ticketed events. The top private events in 2019 as identified by BentoBox were:

  1. Birthdays
  2. Wedding events
  3. Holiday parties

The top 2019 ticketed events were:

  1. Tastings and classes
  2. Special dinner events
  3. New Year’s Eve parties
  4. Prix fixe brunches
  5. Valentine’s Day

The average price for NYE tickets sold by BentoBox clients was $78.

It will likely come as no surprise to operators that most people visited restaurant sites and placed orders from mobile devices. Seventy percent of orders and 65 percent of website visits came from mobile devices, a 12 percent increase in mobile-first usage compared to 2018.

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Mobile visits were slightly edged out by desktop visits in one area: reservations. Fifty-one percent of restaurant reservations were placed via desktop, the majority of which were made around 5:30 p.m. Mother’s Day was the most popular day for restaurant reservations (a longstanding trend).

Restaurants saw an increase in reservations of 75 percent in the days leading up to Valentine’s Day, the day that saw the most last-minute reservations placed. Operators who prefer to plan well ahead and have reservation systems may want to consider tongue-in-cheek marketing warning against waiting until the last minute to book the venue for Valentine's Day.

Those statistics speak to the continued importance of easily navigated restaurant and bar websites optimized for mobile use. Restaurant and bar sites should offer users key capabilities beyond menus, location and contact information: placing orders, making reservations, purchasing event tickets, and purchasing merchandise are all important to today’s guests and consumers.

It’s clear that restaurant and bar websites are viable avenues for revenue.

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Resources

Restaurants in 2019.” BentoBox. January 2019.

BentoBox website

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