The top-10 changes I see in the future for restaurants
Chains will rule – 7 of 10 restaurants are owned by individual operators according to the National Restaurant Association, most of whom are independent. Unfortunately, those independents have been the majority of closures and if 10-15% of all restaurants permanently close during the pandemic, then only healthy chains will be left.
Growth will rebound – Chains will increase unit growth to fill the void left by closed restaurant locations AND new independents will arise out of the ashes. The new wave of restauranteurs will have learned from the recent crisis and will focus on sustainability of operation by leaning hard into delivery, take-home, contactless payment and other enabling technology
Ghost kitchens – new and existing concepts will cooperate together to develop ghost kitchens where multiple cuisines live in harmony to satisfy the appetite of urban dweller and the virtual food court will become a thing.
Cleanliness is next to Godliness – Serve-Safe and other entities who train restaurant employees to prepare and handle food will proliferate and the constant disinfecting of communal surfaces such as counters, door handles, tables, chairs and condiments will become the expected norm.
Off-premise will continue to grow – Now that consumers are getting used to ordering food digitally and internal and external delivery is expected, the trend may slow after the pandemic ends but the trend for facilitating delivery, take-out, meal kits and the like will proliferate.
Digital Rules – Every restaurant, whether they be independent, or part of a chain will provide as many e-commerce channels for guests to order food as possible. Wing Stop, Domino’s and Chipotle are doing well during the pandemic because they were positioned to survive in a crisis. All restaurateurs who don’t learn that they need to embrace digital orders and provide ways for customers to get the food where they want it and when they want it will fail.
Shrinking dining rooms – Because of the shift to off-premise dining, new restaurants in all categories will reduce the square feet of their dining areas. Existing locations will remove tables and chairs to always be prepared for social distancing.
Marketing mix shift – Whereas TV was a big part of the advertising mix for national chains and larger regional chains, the shift to off-premise will force restaurant brands to lean much more heavily into digital advertising channels. The shift will occur because restaurants will more easily track conversions from online visibility to online orders as a key metric. The brands who do continue to use to TV will determine how to make Outcome-Based TV buying work.
Marketing Messaging – All restaurants will need to understand their consumer and know the new customer journey better than ever before. Every brand will also need to nail their brand proposition because if they don’t, all ads after the pandemic ends will be about digital ordering and delivery. Digital channels may be a convenient benefit, but if every restaurant offers the standard digital channels, those digital channels will not be unique to anyone.
Counter Culture – There will also be creative and innovative individuals and organizations who will buck the status quo. Whether they embrace video dining, reinvent food halls or return to a cash-only payment model, we will see successful attempts to do everything they can to not be trapped by the previous 9 changes.
A dynamic results-oriented, data-driven professional, Douglas drives nationwide growth through the creation and delivery of unique, creative brand strategies enhancing customer affinity and market position. With 25+ years of executive marketing experience, he strengthens brand equity with resonating positioning strategies via successful marketing programs and innovative marketing campaigns that boost revenues. An innovative leader with strong team building and collaboration skills, his strategic initiatives generate substantial shareholder and franchisee value, and open new revenue opportunities.