Two key hospitality trends that you need to plan for, according to top industry experts

December 7, 2020
min read

A year ago, trend predictions for 2020 looked bright and bullish, focusing on the kinds of topics that come when humanity’s basic hierarchy of needs are met: sustainability, elevated wellness, organic and better for you products all pointed to bottom-line increases.

In spite of the drastic turn of events, as we move forward cautiously, we at Jitjatjo see a silver lining: with adversity comes change.  2021 hospitality trends are centered around truly meeting consumers’ needs and continuing the aggressive and exciting evolution of the hospitality industry.  

We consulted with hospitality industry experts to get a deeper insight into what we might expect next year.  Two key restaurant and travel trends emerged loudly, very much answering what people and businesses need now.  The actualization of 2021 hospitality trend predictions will be dictated by how quickly the world can safely begin to open back up, but much is already well underway, and these trends can further crystalize even while the world remains in this interim moment.  


Seemingly unanimously, experts agree that the go-forward plan for businesses is centered around a flexible workforce.  A recent McKinsey report suggests that companies that “wish to harness fluctuations in the temporary-labor market may achieve greater flexibility in the recovery” by revisiting their labor sourcing strategies.

As Christopher Mims put it in his recent Wall Street Journal article on the stay-at-home economy, “technology has helped make life tolerable in the pandemic” and echoes expert sentiment that when we are able to leave again safely, it won’t go back to being the way it was.

“Smart and effective collaborations with technology partners have moved from being a luxury to being a must-have. Whether it’s ordering, delivery, or providing seamless access to your customers, this element will remain paramount moving forward,” says Karen Browne, chief executive officer of nine-time James Beard Award-Winning One Off Hospitality in Chicago.

This demand for a flexible labor model is why Jitjatjo was founded nearly 5 years ago.  “We created Jitjatjo to support organizations to fill a shift on a single-day or multiple shifts up-to two months in advance,” says CEO and Co-Founder Tim Chatfield.  The organization’s mission of human betterment is at the heart of its “Network” platform – which enables organizations to power staffing through Empathic Intelligence and a white-labeled technology platform.

“Many of our hotel and hospitality clients are working through their ever-evolving opening plans, and we are happy to see that plan include the reinstatement of many furloughed employees.  What we are also seeing is that many are in a position where their business model is modified or changed altogether, and there’s an increased need for our Ondemand and Network applications,” adds Chatfield.  

CEO of Valor Hospitality Partners Euan McGlashan predicts a bigger and quicker shift in select parts of the hospitality space, specifically identifying digital room keys and technology which allows less human interaction and less contact with staff & surfaces. “The industry was headed this way anyway,” he says, “But companies will bring forward CAPEX that was perhaps slated for further down the road and focus on seamless technology.”

YOTEL Washington, D.C. General Manager Shawn Jervis agrees.  “Today’s traveler is even more connected to technology than they might have been pre-pandemic,” says Jervis, but notes that personal connectivity within that technology will be a point of differentiation.  “Our 2021 travelers will now expect that same level of connectivity in everything from their hotel stay to their restaurant experience, and as a result, we’ll see more advancement of tech capabilities throughout the hospitality industry.”  The new hotel has incorporated its brand’s signature high-tech, low-touch customer experience to deliver every type of guest with exactly what they need to feel safe and connected throughout their travels, including self-check-in kiosks and mobile casting onto in-room TVs as well as a more elevated mobile ordering platform in its restaurant, Art and Soul.

Comfort in the “New, New Normal”

Undeniably, 2020 tested humanity, and next year, with the hope of widely accepted vaccines, time with people outside of quaranteams and some level of return to our favorite activities promises to be a year of soothing.  So it’s no surprise that hospitality experts see comfort as a guiding light towards a new, new normal.  

“I think there will be a massive marketing push by all the big international brands to be first to market offering ‘normal’ experiences and begin dropping plexiglass at front desks, removing social distancing stickers and tape everywhere and dropping mandatory masks in the lobbies as well as opening up all F&B spaces,” predicts Valor’s McGlashan.

Uniquely indulgent baked goods and catering has earned Evelyn’s Kitchen in Manhattan a cult following. “We see elevated comfort food as a growing trend in 2021 as people seek to find ways to make staying home feel good.  Comfort food that is made with great ingredients, is creative, and takes people to a more simple family-oriented time,” says Owner & executive chef Ayala Donchin.  

Convenience as a comfort is part of the 2021 business model.  “You’ll likely see expanded delivery of prepared family-style meals,” says operations and development expert Jonathan Knudsen, Principal at Concrete Hospitality.  “With this approach, restaurants have the opportunity to help diners come together as easily as possible, especially as indoor dining may not return for quite some time.”

Terence Tubridy, Founder and Managing Partner of New York City powerhouse independent restaurant and hotel group In Good Company Hospitality, also sees delivery as a huge opportunity for the industry at large.  “Ghost restaurants were the talk of 2019 and 2020.  Now that chefs and restaurateurs are looking for other sources of income, Goldbelly, and other food delivery companies will align strong independent restaurant brands to propel the growth of the hospitality sector.”

Looking ahead

The new calendar year may not flip a switch on recovery for the hospitality industry.  If these expert predictions reveal anything, it’s that the hospitality industry is resilient and very much ready to conquer whatever comes its way.


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