Another year has come and gone! Every industry has its share of challenges and it’s fair to say it’s been a tumultuous year in the restaurant industry. We take a quick look back at some of the big news stories that caught our readers’ attention in 2019.

Third Party Delivery Dilemma: In-house or third-party? Uber Eats or DoorDash? The delivery dilemma was something that restaurants still grappled with in 2019. With rising consumer demand for off-premises dining many restaurants now work with such delivery services – often with multiple third-party platforms—lured by promises of incremental sales growth and expanded customer bases. But alas, these partnerships present their own issues, such as high-order volumes, high commission rates, tight margins and diminishing margins – not to mention the loss of personal customer interaction, data, as well as control over the customer experience. Delivery continues to exhibit robust growth; this year (2020!) food delivery app usage will surpass 44 million people in the U.S., reaching nearly 59.5 million by 2023. Delivery offers a fresh channel for restaurants and takeaways to increase their sales, for those still undecided as to what to do, the challenge in 2020 will be to figure out which method is best for their business as staying out of the marketing might just be a mistake.

Rise of Ghost Kitchens: If food delivery wasn’t enough to contend with in 2019, a new trend emerged i.e. the emergence of “ghost” or “dark” kitchens. These are businesses that have no physical restaurant premises in the conventional sense, and designed with the sole purpose to only handle and serve delivery customers. Restaurants can avail of their services such as using shared kitchen spaces to optimize a restaurant’s delivery business, and help restaurants generate new business and brand awareness. However, the service also comes with a cost, up to 35% commission fee, not to mention the fact that if ghost kitchens do gain traction they could potentially flood the market with new delivery options that will compete for customers with existing brick and mortar restaurants, many of whom are already struggling in today’s challenging businesses environment. Bah humbug!

EMV: A new piece of tech that restaurants had to get their heads around this past year was EMV i.e. edit or debit cards that are chip enabled. The purpose behind EMV is to increase security and prevent fraud. Since their introduction counterfeit credit card fraud dropped by as much as 75% from December 2015 to March 2018. However, from a backend perspective EMV requires more structure and continuity between a variety of different hardware and software pieces making it harder for clients to have the flexibility to choose the payment processor they want. To reduce headaches and keep customers happy in 2020, the best solution for restaurateurs is to find a POS company that can offer a variety of integrations with a variety of payment processors.

I-9 Form Compliance: Every employee hired is required to have an I-9 form to help employers verify the identity and employment authorization of each person they hire. While the I-9 form has been around since the 1980’s during the last few years ICE worksite investigations regarding I-9 compliance have almost quadrupled. Not only that but they requested an additional $313.9million in their 2020 budget plan to increase worksite enforcement of U.S. immigration laws. If there is one piece of paperwork businesses needed to have in order in 2019 – and into the future, the I-9 form is it!

Labor Shortages: In 2019 the industry also found itself in the middle of a labor shortage. While high turnover rates in service industries are nothing new, restaurants have struggled hard with employee retention. From chefs to line cooks to wait staff to delivery – the problem has become more acute in the last two years, reaching crisis levels. Factors behind the shortage have been numerous from low wages, to high turnover rates and a shrinking pool of applicants amid the country’s immigration crackdown all contributing to the labor shortage. It’s likely that current labor woes will continue into 2020 and while you can’t prevent a labor shortage from happening there are steps to help minimize the impact.

Consumer Privacy Laws: In the past number of years the number of businesses that have had their consumer data breached has skyrocketed. As a result, the rights of the consumer have come into sharp focus. The European Union was the first to introduce its GPDR legislation back in May 2016 – a set of rules designed to give EU citizens more control over their personal data. While the US has yet to introduce such measures, in 2019 California became the first US state to announce its own consumer protection law to protect the privacy of California consumers. As of January 1 2020, the California Consumer Privacy Act, or CCPA for short, came into effect. 2020 will likely see further announcements as individual states have begun to craft their own measures, like what we have seen in California – with many states are using the CCPA as a template to draw up their own laws.

These are only six highlights from a busy year – let us know if they are other big-ticket items and challenges from 2019 that you think should have made the list!