As we get settled into a new year, we thought we’d prime the conversation with insights on a few trends from around the country. Hopefully one day we can once again have these talks around the water cooler or in the break room.

More than half of Americans are now using contactless payment, either with credit cards or mobile phones, according to a Mastercard survey.  During the November virtual U.S. Payments Forum member meeting, issuers reported significant growth in contactless usage, with some networks reporting a 200 percent year-over-year increase in contactless spend. 

As restaurants struggle to stay healthy, so are their customers. A study by Ball State and New Mexico State University professors found that more than one-tenth of participants reported practicing more unhealthy eating practices during the pandemic. Unhealthy eating included fasting (16 percent), restricting eating (20 percent), skipping meals (25 percent) and overeating (39 percent). So as you redesign your menus, take into account that offering healthy offerings are vital, but then so are comfort foods.

A spirited lesson from 2020 was that consumers were willing to trade-up to ultra-premium alcohol choices, especially in the hot categories such as tequila and mezcal, bourbon and cognac, according to beverage industry research by KPMG’s corporate finance group. While surveys were showing that liquor sales were up before the pandemic struck, there was a notable increase in the amount of alcohol being purchased during lockdowns across the country. According to surveys by  Nielsen, alcohol sales increased 55 percent the week ending March 21, and by a month later, online alcohol sales increased by a whopping 234 percent.

Yelp counted more than 1,500 dessert and treats locations opened nationally last September. Doughnuts led the way, but in unusual ways such as a Japanese rice cake and a Fruity Pebble churro, according to Nation’s Restaurant News.

The most popular item ordered through Chowbus, a national delivery app for authentic Asian Food, was milk tea, which was three times more popular than any other item. The most money spent on a single item was $2,803 on 145 different kinds of chocolate from a Japanese sweet shop in Chicago. Spare ribs, fatty beef slices, tomatoes and green onions alternated for the No. 1 item ordered monthly.

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