Remote and hybrid work is here to stay, but it’s not all bad news for restaurants. Restaurants that once relied heavily on corporate business were rapidly forced to adapt as “bread and butter” customers closed their physical spaces. While business dining continues to recover and has made significant gains in the past two years, the reality is that business dining looks a lot different now — and might for some time.
Business dining is no longer concentrated in major metropolitan areas; more business dining is occurring in the suburbs, closer to workers’ homes. And hybrid work has caused a shift in typical business dining patterns and behaviors.
But there are some silver linings for restaurants. Let’s look at the latest remote work trends, found in the new Q3 State of Business Dining Report, and the opportunities they present.
Kastle’s Back to Work Barometer shows average office occupancy hovering around 47.9% nationally. Since there are major differences between metro areas, it’s more helpful to look at back-to-office trends in your region. In Austin, for example, office occupancy is at 61.6%. In New York, it’s only 46.5%. In-person work tends to be more prevalent in small and midsize cities, where more people drive to work.
After two years of video calls and Teams chats, many companies are eager to get employees back to their desks, but they’re sweetening the deal with food and other perks.
When Microsoft employees returned to work, for example, it transformed the campus pub into a beer, wine and “mocktail” garden. Food trucks were abundant, from fried chicken to tacos and gyros, and the cafeteria was jam-packed.
Many employees still hesitate to give up their WFH flexibility, so whether in-person work will ever fully recover is anyone’s guess. But either way, businesses must find ways to retain employees, invest in business relationships, and build culture. And free food is one of the most popular tools to do so, both at the office and offsite at restaurants.
According to Technomic’s Q2 Consumer & Operator Outlook Report, a full 38% of commuters said their office provided catering at least once a week! While overall catering volume might still be less than it was before the pandemic, restaurants stand to profit from companies luring employees back to the office.
Restaurants looking to profit from increased catering should understand that there’s been a shift in traditional work week patterns and demands. Friday, once the most popular day for business lunches, is now the most popular work-from-home day; Mondays and Wednesdays are better bets for catering (and business dining in general). As hybrid work and some COVID fears linger, it could mean smaller business orders or changes to catering menus or packaging.
A recent Gartner CFO study found that 72% of CFOs want to trim their company’s real estate footprint by the end of the year. But that doesn’t mean employees are meeting in person less; face-to-face meetings jumped 62% from 2021 to 2022.
What does it mean for restaurants? Businesses are likely to rely more on restaurants for meetings and celebrations — particularly approaching the holiday season, where business dining tends to flourish.
These business diners are looking for reliable, business-grade restaurant partners to ensure their private dining events go off without a hitch. At Dinova, we’ve developed new tools to bring more of them to your table, including the 2022 Holiday Dining Guide and the Dine Assist concierge service.
Blog article updated October 26, 2022
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