Last year saw the onset of new battles in restaurant menus. Everyone remembers the internet breaking power of Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits chicken sandwich (#ChickenWars) and the battle for fast food chains spilled into the New Year as Wendy’s and McDonald’s debuted new breakfast offerings (#BreakfastWars). Other restaurant chains like Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs and Dog Haus International LLC jumped in with offerings ranging from local favorites to artisan blends. All of the sandwich slinging goodness got put on ice when COVID-19 struck this year. Expansive menus in every restaurant were reduced to what could fit on a single disposable sheet.

These reduced menus were a necessary invention as dining rooms closed and restaurants moved to off-premise sales. Inventory had to be drastically cut and service speed became paramount with reduced staff and new sanitation procedures. Many restaurants were able to adapt and those who were unable to do so have likely closed their doors for good. Restaurants have been considering what their menus will look like for the remainder of the year as it is has become obvious that there will not be a return to “normal” pre-COVID-19 business before 2020 comes to a close. New and rotating menu items are the lifeblood of every restaurant ranging from fast food to fine dining. The change has already begun to take shape as KFC is testing out a new chicken sandwich to compete with Popeyes and Burger King debuted its new plant based breakfast sandwich. The #MenuWars have been reignited.

Restaurants will need new suppliers and foodservice distributors for the menu wars to be successful. New safe packaging will have to be purchased and restaurants will be looking to diversify their supply chain to avoid shortages like the one we saw with Wendy’s beef just a few weeks ago. The entire industry is also paying attention the rising number of positive COVID-19 cases. This does not mean that another shutdown is coming, but it is wise to be prepared for that possible outcome or further reduction in the number of guests allowed to dine-in. Restaurants will have to balance increasing their inventory for new menu items with the risk of overstocking if we see another dip in traffic. It is time to prepare for take-out and delivery to be the primary revenue stream for the foreseeable future. We cannot count on the stability of restaurant dining rooms and the most successful suppliers will be those who diversify their portfolio of partners and seek out chains that are committed to off-premise sales. CSG’s Chain Restaurant Premier database has been closely monitoring the industry throughout the pandemic and provides verified contact information for key decision makers from thousands of restaurants that are prepared for the new future of the industry. If you are interested in the openings and closings of restaurants, Chain Store Guide is capturing real-time data for all locations in the U.S. and Canada, including those that closed because of COVID-19. Call 1-800-927-9292 for more information.