2021 State of Industry Report: Hospitality Trends & More

We surveyed over 2,000 global restaurant owners, operators, managers and guests to see how the past year has changed their views on the industry, for better or worse, and how they plan to adjust and adapt.

Read on to learn:

Read the full report

Over 2,000 restaurant operators and guests share their views on restaurant technology, managing the labor shortage and how they envision the future of the hospitality industry.


Hospitality industry trends and challenges

Restaurant technology

More people, both restaurant workers and customers alike, are coming around to the idea of using technology to automate and streamline operations. This is another trend tied to the labor shortage. Once seen as a job killer, automation technology is now necessary to fill the gaps and support a smaller staff.

Key findings on restaurant technology include:

  • Fifty percent of hospitality operators in the US and 51% in Canada plan to utilize some form of automation technology within the next 2-3 years.
  • In the US and Canada, 43% of industry respondents either somewhat or strongly agreed that ​​new technology adoption over the last two years has been critical for their business’ survival.
  • Most guests want to support restaurants by ordering directly from the restaurant rather than a third party app.

Download the full report for more in-depth data and insights on the future of technology in the hospitality industry.

Restaurant staffing shortage

According to Statista, the number of restaurant employees in the US dropped by 2.2 million from 2019 to 2020. Due to the number of folks leaving the service industry altogether, it is unclear if the labor shortage is permanent or temporary and, if so, how long it will last. 

Demands and expectations on restaurant staff need to be reconsidered to avoid high churn, as well as better working conditions, wages and benefits.

  • Forty-one percent of US and 36% of Canadian respondents report that they are currently working with a smaller staff than before.
  • In the US (30%) and Canada (16%) operators report they are cutting down their hours as a way to ease the burden on their smaller staff and ensure workers have a proper amount of time to rest.
  • The majority of respondents in the US (59%) have raised wages and benefits to attract new hires, while only 34% of Canadian restaurant owners have had to do the same.

Download the full report to learn more about the actions restaurant operators are taking to fill the gaps and ease the workloads of smaller staff.

Guest behavior

There are many reasons why restaurateurs around the world are struggling to retain staff, and reports of an increase in guests’ bad behavior is one. While there have always been difficult customers, pandemic rules and restrictions have created a new epidemic of poor attitudes, from people disregarding staff requests to full-on verbal abuse and assault.

  • Sixty-two percent of hospitality professionals in the US and 44% in Canada report that guests have been more demanding, while 30% in the US and 47% in Canada actually feel they have been more understanding
  • The majority of guests behaving badly in the US is hurting the labor pool the hardest amongst all the countries surveyed. 
  • In the US, 45% of respondents reported that guests have been tipping better over the past year, while 39% said they were tipping worse. And while fewer guests in Canada or Europe are tipping better (36% on average), lower tips is a much bigger issue for workers in the US who can make as little as $2.13 per hour.

Download the full report to see how reported guest behaviors in the US and Canada compare to their European counterparts and how tipping culture plays a role.


The guest perspective

Supporting restaurants

Globally, 35% of guests are keen to get back into the dining room as more restaurants open up, but many plan to still support their favorite restaurants in other ways.

  • US consumers (51%) are much more eager to get back to dine-in than their Canadian counterparts (28%).
  • While many more (44%) of respondents in the US plan to tip better than those in Canada (27%) or Europe (24%), culturally it’s also much more expected there to tip and tip well.
  • While many guests are eager to get back into the dining room, takeout isn’t going away: 48% of US customers and 41% of Canadian customers still plan to order takeout regularly.

A man in a black hat and green jacket sitting next to a woman in a white shirt at a bar.

Download the full report to learn more about the experiences guests are looking for in 2021 and beyond.

Dine-in requirements

While guests are eager to come back to the dining room, they are still being cautious and careful. Now is the time to review your safety and sanitation practices and make sure guests and staff alike feel safe.

  • Fifty-one percent of US guests and 58% of Canadian guests want to still see staff and guests masked up indoors (unless eating, of course).
  • Far more people in the US (40%) prefer to dine in an outdoor setting, with the biggest demand being in the Northeast region (49%) followed by the West (40%), Midwest (37%) and South (34%). 
  • In Canada only 21% of guests require outdoor dining as a safety precaution; the highest demand is in Ontario (36%), British Columbia (30%) and Newfoundland and Labrador (29%) while 0% (that’s right, zero) of those surveyed in Prince Edward Island, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and the Yukon cited it as a must-have.
  • In the US (37%) and Canada (36%) guests are the most willing to have to provide proof of vaccination before entering a business. In the US this was most popular in the Northeast (50%) and least popular in the Midwest (30%) while in Canada it was most popular in Quebec (49%) and least popular in Nova Scotia (15%).

Download the full report to find out what other health and safety precautions guests are expecting when they step into the dining room.

Holiday spending

In 2020, COVID took down the normal holiday boom many restaurants rely on—the holiday parties, catering and family gatherings during the winter months. For this upcoming holiday season, some guests want to return to their traditions while others remain cautious.

  • Out of all countries surveyed, guests in the US (31%) are most likely to bring back the corporate holiday parties this year. However, guests in the West (33%), South (28%) and Midwest (25%) are less likely to do so than their Northeastern (40%) counterparts.
  • By comparison, only 4% of Canadian companies will be hosting corporate events inside a restaurant this holiday season—the highest probability of this happening is in Nova Scotia (15%), while only 0-6% of respondents in the other Canadian provinces and territories plan to do so. 
  • Gift cards will be popular gift items in the US (43%) and Canada (37%). They are a low-cost and high-reward option to offer last minute shoppers, so it’s important to have them available (and heavily promote them). If you don’t offer gift cards in your restaurant, potential customers will go elsewhere to get one!

Download the full report for more tips on capturing extra holiday revenue this upcoming season.

As we move into 2022, the key takeaways to keep in mind are building and retaining a strong and happy staff, balancing customer service with company policies and staying up-to-date on the technology that savvy guests are increasingly expecting as the norm. 

Looking for a technology partner to help take your hospitality business to the next level? Talk to one of our experts today to find out how Lightspeed can help.

Cyndy Lane

Cyndy is business journalist with a focus on entrepreneurship and small business. With over a decade of experience covering the startup and small business landscape, Cyndy has a reputation for being a knowledgeable, insightful and approachable journalist. She has a keen understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing small business owners and is able to explain them in a way that is relatable and actionable for her readers.