Top Trends in Hospitality for 2021

The hit that the hospitality industry took this year is beyond words. It’s saddening to count the casualties – local favorites and big-name businesses alike – but there’s also a sense of hope and inspiration in the air. The sharp shifts that restaurants, hotels and the industry as a whole have made in 2020 illuminate the creativity, passion and sheer hustle the community shares. 

With that, we say, onwards: here’s what to expect in 2021, plus five easy ways to support the spots you love.

Trends: Micro-Bakeries, Pop-Ups, Brand Extensions & Home Delivery

"Expect creativity like never before as chefs embark on solo passion projects and restaurants embrace new ways of attracting guests. The 2008 economic downturn spurred the food-truck craze. The COVID crisis will likewise accelerate a trend towards passionate cooks and out-of-work chefs working a cottage industry, cooking out of their homes and in rented or borrowed (currently closed) kitchen spaces to open micro-bakeries, popup restaurants, weekly delivery service and more. They are offering foods they love to their community, often with a special niche, providing something not readily available in the area. Many are using instagram to publish the menu and pre-sell orders online for specified pick-up or delivery. Likewise, established restaurants are embracing this change and trying things they never would have tried before including drive-in movies screened in a parking lot, virtual cooking classes, and more.

Kora bakery has a waitlist for its weekly offer of Filipino donuts in NY

As restaurants were forced to look at alternative revenue streams during the shutdown, many began to sell ingredients and components of their popular dishes to be enjoyed at home. For consumers who really embraced online shopping for groceries, especially consumer groups who had not yet purchased groceries online, it became a natural extension to purchase meal kits and ingredients from their favorite restaurants. We expect this trend to continue as consumers become accustomed to using restaurants in this way and as restaurants continue to need additional revenue sources to offset lower capacities in dining rooms.” Andrew Freeman, Founder/CEO af&co., Co-Founder Carbonate (via the 2021 Hospitality Trends Report: Do The Hustle)


Trend: A Touchless Hotel Experience 

"COVID pushes hotels into the future. The virus has accelerated the move toward the touchless hotel experience. By forcing its implementation, it has shifted the conversation from “where is the service culture in touchless” to “we see that touchless, tech-enabled service works.”  In fact, it’s convenient, seamless and easy.  In some cases, it provides more options and updates, all of which equates to better service. This move is further enabled by the mainstream use of apartment and home accommodations, which are already largely touchless. The impact of COVID-19 on technology in hospitality, including food + beverage, will prove to be a money-saver for the industry while providing additional efficiencies.” Florence Quinn, President, Quinn PR


Trends: Biophilic Design & Positive Impact

"Biophilic design that connects people more closely to nature is a trend that has been gaining traction for years and has never been more relevant than now. People are craving the healing power of nature. The world is in need of smarter, healthier spaces for work, play, and life. For two examples of how companies are putting that into action, @Ease Hospitality will soon be launching with a new project designed by Rockwell Group. Studio 11 Design recently completed a Canopy by Hilton property in Scottsdale that brings the outdoors in.

Canopy by Hilton, Scottsdale, AZ

Accountability will be at an all-time high in 2021. Whether this means more eco-friendly design or creating programs that support local businesses, a hospitality brand’s success will be measured by the positive impact made. Not only does a brand need to consider its impact on the local community — and even the world — but it’s also important for brands to think deeply about how they’re communicating their values and the good work that they’re  doing to the masses.” Rachel Harrison, Founder of RHC


Trends: Sustainability & Supporting Local 

"Sustainability: Positive luxury is more important than ever, the slowing down of the world has caused everyone to understand how they can have such a strong direct impact on the environment through things like transport, travel, food, and shopping- especially for millennials who are quickly taking over every other consumer group and are driven by the emotional connections they experience with products and services. Consumers want to invest in experiences that also give back to others, especially in a time where so many people are going through a difficult situation. 

Additionally, consumers are on the lookout to see what businesses are doing to support their local communities, whether it is through employment opportunities, charity partnerships, environmental preservation of the local area, or support to small local businesses.

As a marketing agency born in this time and age, it is important for us to either work with brands that have sustainability ingrained in their ethos such as niLuu, our vegan silk loungewear client and Mademoiselle Provence, a cruelty-free, natural, and affordable beauty line or to work with our clients to adopt sustainability into their practices in order to meet the expectations and resonate with today's audience.” Iman Hasan, Founder, Iman Hasan Creative


Trends: Personal Packaging & Outdoor Experiences

"For 2021, at least for the first half, I think our clients will continue to find innovative yet safe ways to entertain. This fall we collaborated with Burberry to package individual one bite canapes that varied for breakfast, lunch and cocktail hour. They were presented to each client along with a choice of fresh mint green tea in a glass bottle, or a mini champagne, and could be enjoyed when the client was safely at home


Our clients also took their events to the streets of Manhattan. For the LoveShackFancy store opening, we catered a block party on Madison Avenue where we handed out hot chocolate with custom bow marshmallows and beautifully wrapped cookies from a Love Shack cart, and the neighborhood loved both the treats and the energy the party brought to the community. I think these outdoor experiences will continue, even as people feel safe being together, as the reach is much larger and the events are more inclusive.” Jordana Blitz, Founder, Little Gem


Trends: Hotel Workspaces & Virtual Experiences 

"One of the things we will definitely continue to see in 2021 is the concept of remote working. Given that the pandemic has forced people to work from home for extended periods and has proved that it can work, many people will continue to work remotely for extended periods while on holiday. We are seeing this at our client Borgo Egnazia, in Puglia Italy which launched their Smart Working program back in June 2020 aimed expressly at clients who would prefer to work remotely from Puglia rather than the confines of an apartment in Milan or one of the larger European cities, offering guests a healthier work-life balance. Guests can work remotely from their private villas, cassetas or in a shared work space in their Bar del Partico (think Soho House but in Puglia). 

Bar del Portico at Borgo Egnazia

Another trend we will see is the integration of virtual hotel experiences. Borgo Egnazia launched Casa Egnazia to bring guests closer to Puglia. Casa Egnazia offers a variety of innovative content aimed to bring a taste of Puglia to people at home (or until their next trip to Puglia), ranging from live cooking classes focusing on the foods of Puglia to virtual wine tastings, and Italian Language classes as well as webinars on biodiversity.” Jessica Aufiero, Founder, JAC


Trends: Focus on Local & Tech 

"Hotel properties will cater much more to their local communities. This can include outdoor workout classes with local instructors where more space is available than in-studio, providing creative "office" setups to get people out of their apartments/homes for a change of work environment for the day, discounts on staycations and more socially distanced events like movie screenings, art exhibits, etc. Hotels will be working with more local businesses by giving them spaces / venues to conduct their businesses and at the same time are finding ways to incentivize locals to visit. Technology will continue to advance in the hospitality industry with more virtual experiences and contactless options.” The Le CollectiveM team


Trend: Individual Servings

Kathleen Schaffer, Owner/Creative Director, Schaffer

"Even as the pandemic wanes, we expect individual servings to continue to be popular.  Schaffer offers over 60 creative stations, which are the perfect answer for the in-between times in 2021. I love our pho station during the cooler winter months, as it is so customizable for each guest. A chef selects from a variety of broths, clips fresh herbs, and pours over noodles and aromatics.” Melissa Darpino, Director of Sales and Marketing, Schaffer


Trend: Multi-Generational Travel

"After these many months of isolation, people are eager to not only travel but to reconnect with their friends and family. I’m confident more families – from grandparent to grandchild –will choose to travel together to “catch up for lost time.” Jennifer Baum, Founder, Bullfrog + Baum


Trend: Travel by RV 


"Travel by RV emerged as a huge industry trend this year and looking at the numbers, I’d expect this to become a travel category leader in 2021 (and many years to come). Taking the same approach as Airbnb does with the hotel sector, companies like RVshare and Outdoorsy are changing the way families, couples, small groups of friends and more are hitting the road to take in the best domestic destinations. From the national parks to cross country explorations, travel by RV proves to be an incredible option for safe, affordable, private and controlled travel. Many will RV for vacation while some may work from the road.  Either way, I think the RV road trip is here to stay.” Sara Joseph, Senior Vice President, BerlinRosen


Trend: Traveling to Reunite  

"This year has taught us many things, but most importantly it has made us cherish each moment, be more mindful and learn to live in the now. Looking ahead to 2021, we will see travelers prioritize vacations to reunite with loved ones. Demand for private home rentals to accommodate multigenerational travel will surge and younger generations will find themselves traveling longer distances just to reconnect with friends and family.” -Chad Belisario, Vice President of Lifestyle & Travel, EVINS Communications


Support the businesses you love with five tips from Becca: 

1. Continue to pressure the House and Senate to pass the RESTAURANTS Act and give our nation’s restaurants a fighting chance to survive. Follow Indp. Restaurant Coalition for more details. 

2. If you’re able, contribute to organizations such as ROAR, Lee Initiative or Ind. Hospitality Coalition who are raising funds to provide financial relief for restaurant workers. Or, donate your time/money to organizations such as Rethink Food who are helping to support restaurants as they also help to feed the food insecure in underserved communities. 

3. henever possible, order takeout/delivery directly from restaurants. If you’re unsure, call and ask for their preferred method to receive orders. Eschew predatory marketplace apps such as Seamless and UberEats in favor of commission-free platforms such as Chow Now when possible. 

4. Be kind and tip your delivery person generously. 

5. Don’t stop. Without the collective and continued noise of our efforts, our favorite restaurants, the local haunts that sustain us, the go-to take out that comforts us, the communities that welcome us - they will be forever closed. 

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