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What Pandemic Trends the Restaurant Industry is Seeing in Salt Lake County

Posted By Regional Development
March 03, 2021

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Today we had three wonderful guest panelists join us at a Salt Lake County Economic Impact & Recovery meeting to speak on the current state of the restaurant industry in Salt Lake County; how owners and employees are faring; and what trends they see now and in the future due to the pandemic.

  • Melva Sine, CEO/President of Utah Restaurant Association
  • Michele T. Corigliano, Executive Director at Salt Lake Area Restaurant Association
  • Tim Ryan, Owner of Bout Time Pub

Trends

Planning & Takeout

Utahns are getting used to and desire takeout now, but accessibility to get to restaurants, park, run in, and leave, has been hampered and difficult.

Those in the industry believe building new restaurants and their blueprints will change the way our cities are planned. City planning and parking will need to be a consideration when it comes to takeout and delivery -- even for third party delivery services, Michele said.

Layout

Consider the development of new complexes, retail, and strip malls, Tim urged. Developers are going in and taking a parcel that can hold six food-related concepts but built with drive-thrus that wrap around the building to allow for vehicle stacking. However, plans aren't considering sit-down dining locations with outdoor patio space without idling cars next to them.

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Sit-down Isn't Going Away

When the pandemic is behind us, these industry experts don't believe dine-in experiences will go too. 

"We're going to remain the social experience. We provide meals. But part of what we do is provide a social experience, friends gather, people meet. I don't believe that will go away," Tim said. "There are trends in the industry running very strong even five years before the pandemic of delivery and takeaway, but we're seeing our customers are clamoring to get back through the doors."

Third-Party Delivery is a Sticky Situation

According to Melva, 30% of sales can go to a third-party delivery service; a cut she says is keeping restaurants from recovering from the pandemic. "Thirty percent means loss." Restaurants don't want to do anything to harm their availability with customers and want to stay relevant, she said, so they've been forced to use the third parties. 

But, Melva insists delivery companies need to be trained how to handle food, have contracts, and provide restaurants access to all third-party data related to their business.

Finding Employees Is Competitive

Another trend all the industry experts expounded on was the inability to find enough staff. Changing lifestyles and mindsets among employees -- where they only want to work three days a week so they can ski the other ones, or have Saturdays off, etc -- means the need for employees has doubled. 

Some labor force is going to other industries, like construction, and pulling away food industry employees. 

Have more questions for our panelists?

Contact Michele: info@utahrestaurantassociation.org, www.utahrestaurantassociation.org

Contact Tim Ryan: tim@bouttimepub.com, www.bouttimepub.com

Contact Melva Sine: michele@slara.org, www.slara.org