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The state of the restaurant industry is ever-evolving, but nothing could have prepared restaurant owners and operators for 2020. The Upserve Data Science Team assessed trends from our 10,000+ restaurant customers to find out what items sold best in 2020 for online ordering, in-house dining, as well as the items trending on James Beard Award-winning menus. Plus, we spoke to 10 hospitality professionals who managed to beat the odds and were able to grow their year-over-year sales by up to 188%!

Download Upserve’s 2020 State of the Restaurant Industry Report to see the whole story.

2020 Restaurant Industry Menu Trends

  • Online Ordering is obviously huge in 2020, and customers are craving comfort food when they’re ordering in (can you blame us?). Online Ordering sales of pizza (+9%), burgers (+10%), and fried chicken (+5%) were up from last year
  • When it comes to dine-in, guests are going big with seafood (+17%) and steak (+8%) topping the list. With guests dining out less, it makes sense that they are ordering bigger ticket items when they do. 
  • James Beard Award-winning restaurants are generally on top of the upcoming trends, but they also opted for selling simple, family-style meals to meet consumer demand while keeping more “special” options available via popular tasting menus for dine-in.

Download the full report to see the top 10 most-ordered items, find out how menu trends varied by restaurant type, and more.

2020 Sales Trends in the Restaurant Industry 

  • Restaurant tips took a dive in 2020: They’re down 5% on average and dipped to their lowest at the peak of the pandemic.
  • We break down sales trends in major restaurant cities and found Boston, NOLA, and San Francisco were hardest hit when it comes to year-over-year revenue.
  • 2020 Sales by Restaurant Type: While all types of restaurants saw a dip in sales from mid-to-late March, bars and fine dining suffered the most since these types of places are better known as dine-in destinations and social gathering spots.

Get more info on sales trends by restaurant type and see how holiday trends have changed during the pandemic in the full 2020 report.

Restaurants Who Grew Sales up to 188% in 2020

In our report, we share the stories, tactics, and advice from 10 restaurants who were able to grow sales up to 188% year-over-year in 2020 despite COVID and average restaurant sales being down 40-90% year-over-year. 

Find out how one wine bar had their best year ever by pivoting to sell coffee, breakfast, and lunch to the professionals in his neighborhood who suddenly all found themselves working from home.

“We’re still growing it. But the moment I opened up for breakfast, my lunches started doing better,” says Oliver. “And I wasn’t open for lunches before either. But need was driving it. The big restaurants in our area weren’t open for lunch.” – Matthew Oliver, House of Oliver

Tips for bringing your in-house hospitality online through social media and responding to guest reviews.

“If someone gives us a two star review, I reach out to them. I want to know what happened. Even if you paid through a third party, we’re going to make it right for you.” – Osmin Sariles, Casa Mia Latin Cuisines

How to convert your guest from expensive third-party online ordering apps to your own integrated online ordering system, and how to make menu adjustments that boost your bottom line.

“I told my management team, ‘Your top priority is to make ordering online as simple as possible for our customers; promote that and make our website easy to use.’ That feature has helped us so much and I’m very grateful for that.” – Antony Castro, Baracoa Cuban Restaurant

“As far as the menu, just make sure that it’s all very tight and you don’t have any extra things that don’t make sense, especially if it’s online. Make it super easy for people to just be like, ‘I’ll have that.’” – Iwalani Farfour, The Farm Cart

Read more about these and other restaurant’s stories in the 2020 report.

The state of the restaurant industry is ever-evolving, but nothing could have prepared restaurant owners and operators for 2020. Download our State of the Restaurant Industry Report for 2020 menu, sales, and holiday trends, plus stories from restaurant owners who managed to grow sales despite the pandemic.

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Written by   |  
Stephanie is a Providence, RI native and eight-year food industry veteran. As Upserve's Content Marketing Coordinator she creates materials that help restaurateurs, managers, and service professionals succeed. When she's not writing, Stephanie is most likely traveling, cooking, or trying new restaurants.
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