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Viewpoint - January 2021



2021: It is Going to be a Better Year!

by Bob Gershberg, CEO/Managing Partner, Wray Executive Search

This past year has brought many permanent closures to the US restaurant industry with estimates of about 18% and counting. Independent concepts have, indeed, suffered disproportionately.  So many trends have advanced at lightspeed due to the pandemic. Digital menu/ordering, contactless payment, ghost kitchens, virtual concepts and off-premise have grown and will continue to exponentially. Online booking is slated to hit 90% by the end of 2021.The good news is we are seeing strong signs of pent-up demand. Many leaders in the industry believe as dining rooms open to full capacity sales will be stronger than ever.

Value will remain critical particularly during the 1st quarter to 1st half of the year. Real estate opportunities for those who have weathered the storm will be substantive. Heck, it has been a long time since we have seen a buyer’s market.

The Human Capital piece will present more challenges than ever. The incoming administration has prioritized an increase in the minimum wage so expect more automation throughout. White Castle’s Flippy the Robot will have lots of company by year’s end. At leadership level, complexity, uncertainty, volatility, and respective ambiguity will test new skills and strategic thinking. Vertical leadership development in which one becomes more agile, adaptable, collaborative, and self-aware will trump standard horizontal development. The focus will shift from building skills and adding competencies to growing the mindset agility that leads to strategic thinking. Leaders must reach goals not just set them.

Recovery is close at hand but will not be a smooth ride.


The restaurant industry will re-hire one million people by 2021 as it moves towards revival following the sector's worst downturn in 2020, according to a report by restaurant tech platform Dineout. Pointing towards a drastic change towards wholesome nutritional preferences, the study also noted that 45 per cent of young adults are going to make healthier food choices during 2021.

The pandemic presented a perfect storm of challenges that severely limited the ability to perform. Amid this situation, some leading brands were showing extraordinarily strong signs of a recovery. In addition, many of these players have significantly strengthened their takeaway and delivery capabilities, giving them more diverse ways of reaching customers. And these new strengths could have serious long-term benefits. Finally, there is a high likelihood that the end of COVID will bring back customers who missed having these ‘out-of-home’ experiences. If the brands can align themselves with key trends like lingering economic uncertainty by focusing on more value-oriented offerings, there may be a possibility of a strong and sustained resurgence for sit-down chains in the years to come.

Yep – It is going to be a much better year!

Be well! Stay safe!

All the best,


Bob Gershberg |CEO|Managing Partner|

727 244-4113

Finding tomorrow’s leaders today!

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