- Nearly 72% of consumers are planning to hold an in-person event in 2021, with hotels and private restaurant space among the top selected sites for hosting, after hosting at home or at a "unique venue," according to a report from Tripleseat and SevenRooms.
- Though most people are planning to keep their guest counts small, with 38% hosting between one and 20 guests, and 32% plan to have up to 50 guests.
- Most consumers are planning to host their event at home, and over 50% of consumers plan to have that event catered, which could create additional opportunities for restaurants, the report said.
As consumer comfort with gathering again in person rises, restaurants could play a big part in this transition, both as a host for private events and for catering orders. These roles may help expedite the industry's continued recovery, as well.
"2021 will bring a restaurant renaissance unlike any we've seen before, with more consumers dining out and planning events than in years past," SevenRooms CEO and Co-Founder Joel Montaniel said in a press release. "Hospitality operators should be prepared to meet this demand — both from an operational and technological standpoint — to keep guests safe and provide the types of hospitality experiences that will foster long-term loyalty with customers."
This pent-up demand could pose significant challenges with both staffing and operational execution, however. The restaurant industry is currently experiencing a major staffing shortage as consumers return, and a barrage of in-person events could put even more pressure on restaurateurs operating with lean teams. Labor scheduling technology could help ease these pressures. Contactless offerings to order, pay and collect delivery or pickup meals could provide a more seamless experience for customers as well, according to Tripleseat and SevenRooms.
It's also important for restaurants to manage their spaces and safety protocols to appeal to those seeking an in-person event. According to the survey, consumers are specifically looking for outdoor areas, socially-distanced floor plans, cleaning crews available before and after the event, flexible cancellation policies and personal protective equipment for attendees. Jonathan Morse, CEO of Tripleseat, recommends businesses promote these specific offerings "to get in front of their target consumer" as in-person events increase.
While several brands suspended their catering business during the early part of the pandemic, according to Restaurant Business, this data shows an opportunity exists for restaurants to reignite those programs. This should be welcome news for restaurant operators, as catering channels tend to generate double or triple the profit of standard food business. Catering, which made up over $60 billion in sales in 2019, also makes up 18% of sales on average at restaurants that offer it. Perhaps that is why the channel was growing at nearly double the pace of the rest of the restaurant industry prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.