Consumer demands for convenience and seamless digital experiences are on the rise, further accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. How can food establishments elevate customer experiences to be successful with the next-generation guest? We’re serving up insights into three trends that are shaping consumption patterns among restaurant guests and examine actions restaurants can take to thrive in the future.
Three trends shaping the restaurant of the future
The restaurant industry is grappling with questions that used to be certainties. What does a modern-day ordering experience look like? What does it mean to operate a restaurant in 2021? What counts as a restaurant, anyway? In late 2019, the answers to those questions were already in flux. Since then, many forces have accelerated change in the restaurant industry, and the shifts are not always obvious.
Similar to early pandemic trends, there are three main factors at work influencing restaurants: convenience, digital, and safety. These catalysts overlap and influence each other greatly, but together they point toward a single, overarching mandate for restaurant brands to fundamentally change their business models.
In our 2020 study, convenience was clearly the most active frontier. Safety was an unquestioned imperative—a reaction, not yet a strategy—and digital was adapting quickly to those needs as part of a course of evolution that was already well under way. Now, it appears convenience has continued its rapid maturation and taken its place as a permanent fixture in the restaurant landscape. Digital still plays a greater, evermore-central role, by nature. And the most active front today, safety—where measures were in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic—are giving way to more consistent and enduring approaches.
So, where does the restaurant industry go from here? We turned to 1,000 consumers who dined in a restaurant within the past three months to take a fresh pulse of their attitudes and perspectives.
What did guests say? How should restaurants respond?
The restaurant of the future arrives ahead of schedule
We conducted consumer surveys both before and after the emergence of COVID-19, which has made it possible to measure existing trends and the impact the pandemic has had on their trajectory. To complement this survey data, we also conducted one-on-one interviews with brand executives. These interviews helped us learn more about where trends are showing up across restaurant segments and categories and helped us collect first-person accounts of how brands are adjusting to meet their customers’ needs.
Based on this research, we’ve identified insights into three key trends that are shaping consumption patterns among restaurant guests:
- Ultimate convenience. Consumers always demand convenience, and in a more off-premises world, that means drive-through, takeout, and delivery are crucial.
- Frictionless digital experiences. Tech-savvy consumers demand digital engagement from restaurants and want cutting-edge restaurant technology options that recognize them and know their preferences.
- Heightened safety in the wake of COVID-19. Remote work models and crowd avoidance are among the trends reshaping people’s dining habits.
The ingredients for the restaurant of the future are in place. To explore them in more detail and learn how to devise an action plan, download our full report.