Obviously, no one could predict the way 2020 would play out.  But as we approach spring and get closer to the summer months, we are starting to see a shift within the COVID-19 Pandemic that could lean more towards normalcy in the summer of 2021.  With humility, we try to imagine what the summer months may bring for the food industry as we know all too well, things can change at any given moment.  But after a year of upheaval and destruction for the restaurant industry, any ounce of normalcy we can cling to is exciting! 

As we approach the summer with high hopes, let’s look at some of the food trends that are circling for summer 2021 and beyond! 

Special Occasion Dining

Thankfully, we have gained traction in Washington state with more indoor dining.  However, the capacity is still extremely low.  And with the weather at play, this doesn’t allow restaurants with limited outdoor spaces to be seating many people.  As these restrictions lift, and with more indoor seating available, we will definitely see a shift in why people are going out to eat.  

Yes, special occasion dining has always been a thing.  I mean, who hasn’t gone out for grandma’s birthday before?  More of what we are talking about is — people started cooking at home more than ever in 2020, and let’s be honest – people want a break!  As the summer months approach we will see customers looking to have a memorable occasion out on the town.  Including a bit of frivolousness in their spending and what they expect from a dining experience.  They will want an experience where they can feel safe and have an exclusive type of vibe from their choice of restaurant.  Think tasting menus, private dining, and ingredients that go above and beyond the norm. 

Simple Comfort Food

We can all agree that 2020 did not feel normal.  That’s not to say that we didn’t learn a lot or grow from the experience, but – people are itching for a sense of comfort and normalcy in 2021.  People are going to gravitate towards the familiarity with the pre-COVID era where more than 6 people were allowed at a table and you didn’t have hand sanitizer at every table.  The same goes for the food they want to eat.  Think real tacos, nothing fancy, or fish n’ chips that yes, you pick up and eat with your hands!  Anything that doesn’t involve them cooking, that tastes good, and that they didn’t have to eat the meal at their house!  REAL comfort food, nothing extravagant – but food that brings back memories of ‘the good ole days.’ 

Even More Local

The local craze was high before the pandemic, but it will be heightened even more so as we continue through 2021.  People want to know how restaurants are supporting their local economy as well.  It would be oxymoronic if the local restaurant that is looking for local support was NOT supporting their local farmer or food supplier.  This will be important and guests will ask more frequently about how the restaurant is also helping their local communities. 

Mindful Eating

There will be an increase in people ditching fad diets and embracing good, nutritious, healthy food.  Historically, people have gone out to eat and brought a laundry list of what they can and cannot have on the menu.  NO MORE.  Thankfully.  Or in general, there will be less of that.  People are ditching the diet mentality and focusing more on how to eat their favorite food in a sustainable and healthy way.  

The wounds of 2020 will not heal overnight, but as an industry, we have always been resilient.  At the end of the day, restaurant workers and owners know how to put their heads down and do the work necessary to serve their communities.  The evolution of the restaurant industry will continue along with its innovations. These trends are just that, trends.  And while some may stick, others will continue to change and evolve as we all work towards a post-pandemic world.