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The 10 trends that helped the restaurant industry survive in 2020, according to the National Restaurant Association

The survey of over 6,000 restaurant operators covers culinary trends, innovation, consumer preferences and more that kept some restaurants alive during COVID

The National Restaurant Association (NRA) on Tuesday released a list of the top trends that kept restaurants in business during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

In 2020, the NRA estimated that the restaurant industry lost $240 billion due to the pandemic. As of January, 2 million restaurant industry employees are still out of work, according to the Department of Labor. And, foodservice was the sector with the most jobs lost in December 2020.

The trade group surveyed over 6,000 restaurant operators and 1,000 adults for consumer preferences to come up with the list of 10 trends.

Many of them are things Nation’s Restaurant News wrote about throughout 2020, including selling groceries (Just Salad’s Just Grocery, Panera, Subway), menu-trimming, comfort foods and the boom in off-premise dining.

The NRA also released a list of what owners said were the most popular items at both full-service and limited-service restaurants throughout the pandemic.


  1. Burgers
  2. Seafood items
  3. Pizza
  4. Steak
  5. Chicken items (excluding wings)
  6. Breakfast items
  7. Pasta
  8. Mexican food
  9. Sandwiches / Subs / Wraps
  10. Chicken wings

Limited service:

  1. Sandwiches / Subs / Wraps
  2. Pizza
  3. Burgers
  4. Chicken items (excluding wings)
  5. Ice cream / cookies / cakes
  6. Baked goods
  7. Breakfast items
  8. Mexican food
  9. Barbecue items
  10. Seafood items

See which trends kept restaurants afloat throughout 2020.

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