Will 2024 be easier for operators?

As we move through the first quarter of 2024, looking back to the final quarter of last year can give us some insight into restaurant success, consumer spending, and what’s trending this year. How did restaurants do towards the end of last year and what can we expect to see this year?

While traffic dipped through September and part of October, numbers picked up, with Mastercard data showing an increase in restaurant spending by eight per cent from November 1 to December 24, year-over-year. In addition, Technomic Ignite’s Tindex says that industry sales were up nearly 10 per cent over 2019‘s numbers.

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While many restaurateurs are beginning the year on a positive, hopeful note, leveraging even more technology might be on the menu for operators looking to pull away from the crowd this year. 56 per cent of restaurants plan to automate more online functions this year, while 48 per cent are looking to automate more on-site.

In an effort to attract attention, restaurant marketing may look a little different, too, as 38 per cent turn to influences to help them get attention on social media and 48 per cent will be making sure their websites are optimized for Google and other search engines.

While value is on the minds of most consumers, 71 per cent of operators say they will once again increase menu prices this year, however, 47 per cent plan to add more discounts and offers, while 20 per cent plan to add less expensive items to the menu.

Even though 2023 seems to have ended on a high note for operators, Restaurants Canada warns of a difficult 2024. Despite lobbying hard for an extension on the deadline for CEBA repayment, their requests were denied, leaving one in five restaurants with a loan repayment on the brink of closing one or more of their locations.

2023 showed that consumers are still supporting their favourite restaurants, but 2024 will still be a struggle for many operators, as the uphill road to recovery continues.