Chicago Restaurant Trends 2023: Annual Industry Report

  • A breakdown of the 2023 Chicago restaurant trends
  • Dozens of stats and industry insights
  • Stories from real restaurateurs in Chicago
  • Strategies for increasing revenue and decreasing expenses
Cover of the 2023 Chicago State of Restaurants.

Restaurateurs in the Windy City have faced their fair share of challenges these past few years, but as our recent Chicago Restaurant Trends Report has uncovered, there are now some signs of clear skies ahead. With sales beginning to recover to pre-pandemic levels and profit margins starting to climb, 2023 looks to be a better year for Chicago restaurants.

To get a clearer picture of these emerging Chicago restaurant trends and to pinpoint potential roadblocks along the way, we recently surveyed a number of operators across the city. This survey was part of our larger 2023 State of Restaurants Report, which featured data from more than 600 full service restaurant owners, CEOs, general managers, and area managers from across the U.S. 

Our new 2023 Chicago State of Restaurants Report includes:

  • Dozens of stats on Chicago’s ever-changing restaurant industry
  • First-hand perspective from real restaurant owners in Chicago
  • Data-backed predictions for the top Chicago restaurant trends in 2023

Below, you’ll find a brief preview of the latest Chicago restaurant trends. To dive deeper into these trends download our free 2023 Chicago Restaurants Report.

The Top Chicago Restaurant Trends for 2023

While restaurants in other major hubs are still trying to recover to pre-pandemic levels, venues in Chicago have managed to make some impressive gains. In 2022, Chicago restaurateurs reported that sales had returned to 76% of pre-pandemic levels. Even more impressive, Chicago restaurants reported an average profit margin of 11.4%, which is well above the national average of 10.6%.

Despite relatively high profit margins, Chicago restaurateurs still faced many significant financial challenges in the past year. Several of these issues, including rising food costs and staffing shortages, are expected to persist well into 2023, meaning Chicago operators will have to keep their eyes on the challenges and trends that will continue to shape the industry.

Based on the findings in our 2023 Chicago Restaurants Report, here are the top trends to watch.

Menu Modifiers Soften the Blow of Rising Food Costs

Of all the restaurant trends in Chicago, perhaps the most significant one has been finding new and creative ways to tackle rising food costs.

Like operators in many other cities across the U.S., food and inventory costs proved to be an ongoing source of financial strain. In fact, 53% of operators in Chicago said it was their top concern. Additionally, 48% of Chicago restaurateurs said that all or most of their suppliers increased costs in the past year, contributing to higher inventory costs overall. 

In an effort to keep expenses under control, 56% of operators said they were trying to boost sales by adding more modifications and add-on options for an extra charge. By charging for extra cheese on a burger or adding the option to purchase a premium side dish, Chicago restaurants have found a clever way to boost check sizes and profits.

Online Ordering Remains an Essential Tool

During the early days of the pandemic, the popularity of online ordering platforms skyrocketed among both diners and restaurants. And while the pandemic-induced takeout boom may have subsided, online ordering is still one of the biggest Chicago restaurant trends.

On average, operators in Chicago say they do 29% of their business through online ordering platforms, which is more than in other major restaurant hubs like Los Angeles and New York City. Operators in Chicago also report that customers spend 16% more on online orders compared to dine-in, proving that takeout and delivery are still key revenue drivers.

As for which platforms are supporting this enduring off-premise model in Chicago, third-party apps like Uber Eats and DoorDash are still popular. However, operators in Chicago report using an average of two online ordering platforms, and, in many cases, that other platform is a direct online ordering system. In total, 30% of the city’s operators said they offer direct online ordering from their restaurant’s website.

New Payments Tech on the Rise

New payment processing technology is another Chicago restaurant trend that accelerated during the early days of the pandemic, but has endured well into the following years. In fact, in 2022, a whopping 84% of Chicago restaurateurs reported adding mobile payments like Apple Pay (more than in any other city), while 77% said they added tap to pay. Even QR code payments remained popular, with 52% of operators adding this payment method.

As Chicago restaurateurs have discovered, not only are these payment methods popular among customers, but they can also solve some major frustrations. When restaurants use a payment processing solution that is directly integrated with the business’ POS system, this reduced the need to manually enter transactions in payment terminals – a top frustration among Chicago restaurateurs.

The above is just a peek at the dozens of insights you’ll find inside our comprehensive Chicago restaurants report. To uncover eleven more ​​restaurant trends in Chicago, download the full 2023 Chicago State of Restaurants Report.

Open book view of the 2023 State of Restaurants Report.
2023 State of Restaurants Report

Get the top trends and insights with our 2023 restaurant industry report.

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Wondering how full service restaurants in Chicago compare to other U.S. restaurants? Download the complete 2023 State of Restaurants Report.

This study was conducted by research firm Maru Matchbox on behalf of TouchBistro in September 2022.

More than 600 full service restaurant owners, presidents, and area/general managers were surveyed across all 50 states, with an added focus on six key cities: New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, and Miami. Survey results are accurate +/- 4% 19 times out of 20. The detailed findings on this research by Maru Public Opinion are available at: Maru Public Opinion US.

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