The National Restaurant Association has said that stimulating tourism is crucial to restaurants’ growth, and one in four restaurant sales dollars can be attributed to tourism. So, understanding how consumers will be traveling this summer is good for business. Here are a few important predictions for how, when and where people will spend their vacation dollars:
Home cooks could steal your customers. The rise of consumer-sharing websites, for everything from lodging to transportation, has reached food service. Airbnb, which helps travelers find private homes to stay in while vacationing, is the most well known. Now a number of companies claiming to be the Airbnb of dining are matching up travelers and home cooks. EatWith, Feastly and others help cooks—professional or not—invite strangers over for dinner parties in their homes for a price. For the cooks, it’s a chance to practice and showcase their culinary talents. For travelers, it’s the ultimate local dining experience—dining with locals.
Last-minute bookings mean you may not see tourists coming. According to a study by JiWire, more than 55 percent of consumers booked travel-related reservations for both current and future travel plans during their trip. It’s thanks largely to the rise in the use of smartphones for such transactions. Services and content have sprung up to help these procrastinators—Eater.com regularly runs a “Last-Minute Reservation Guide” and OpenTable has just launched a service that will alert consumers when hard-to-get tables suddenly open up in Houston, Los Angeles and New York City. Similarly, SoonSpoon, a just-launched website, has partnered with 14 Boston restaurants to publish a list of open tables due to cancellations.
Goodbye room service; hello customers. Much attention was paid when the New York Hilton Midtown announced it would do away with room service, and instead open a new grab-and-go concept in the lobby for guests to grab a quick meal. Travel + Leisure calls the fact that many hotels are rethinking room service one of the most important travel trends of 2014. Played right, it could be an opportunity for restaurants in the vicinity.