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Food Service Industry Updates Franchising Industry Updates

The Restaurant of the Future is Here, Deloitte Reports

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No matter how food is delivered, it will continue to be delivered more frequently.

Story Highlights

62% of respondents cite convenience as the main reason they visit a restaurant.

• Since COVID-19, delivery and takeout orders have continued to increase, up 14% — to 68% and 52% — for consumers ordering once a month or more.

• Nearly a quarter of consumers (23%) say their more frequent use of takeout and delivery will be permanent.

70% of respondents prefer to place their delivery orders online.

Takeout and delivery of restaurant food isn’t going anywhere, even after the pandemic is under control.

According to a new report from market researcher Deloitte, “The Restaurant of the Future Arrives Ahead of Schedule — Time to Get on Board,” nearly a quarter of consumers (23%) say their more frequent use of takeout and delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic will be permanent. Since COVID-19, delivery and takeout orders have continued to increase, up 14% — to 68% and 52%, respectively — for consumers ordering once a month or more, driving restaurants to rethink their physical footprints.

The message to foodservice operators is clear: If you aren’t running an efficient takeout and delivery business, you had better get your kitchens in order.

“COVID-19 has challenged restaurants by temporarily closing dining rooms, but it has also provided the industry the chance to seek out new opportunities to engage customers,” said Jean Chick, a principal for Deloitte Consulting LLP. “Even before the pandemic, consumers were increasing their demands for convenience and digital engagement. Now more than ever, the ball is in each restaurant’s court.”

Deloitte’s study also found that consumers demand efficiency now more than ever, with nearly two-thirds (62%) of respondents citing convenience as the main reason they visit a restaurant. As safety concerns continue, 71% of consumers request contactless delivery from restaurants, according to the report.

Deloitte’s study is based on two surveys of restaurant customers from December 2019 and June 2020, as well as interviews with executives from quick-service restaurants (QSR), fast-casual and casual-dining brands. It examines new consumer demands amid the pandemic and how the restaurant industry is rebounding and preparing for long-term growth.

Millennials (ages 23 to 39) and Gen X (ages 40 to 55) are leading the way in placing delivery orders (65% and 61% for delivery, and 76% and 77% for takeout), according to Deloitte. They are also willing to pay for that added convenience, so long as it meets their expectations.

Consumers consider a $4 delivery fee, on average, to be fair for this level of convenience. However, they still expect their food to be ready in a timely fashion, as three-quarters of consumers (75%) consider 30 minutes or less a reasonable wait time. Only one in five (20%) consider it realistic to wait up to 45 minutes for their meals.

Knowing the importance of minimal wait times, restaurants are exploring new and innovative ways to better serve customers, according to the report. For example, almost two-thirds (62%) of customers are willing to pick up food from a location other than the restaurant itself, like a delivery hub. In addition, 44% of consumers would order delivery of uncooked meals that they would finish preparing at home.

Now more than ever, consumers want to get their food and go — quickly, Deloitte found. In fact, during interviews some QSR restaurant executives reported that drive-through volume, once 20% of their business, has increased to 90% since the COVID-19 outbreak. This increase in off-premises orders is not likely to change anytime soon, as almost half (46%) of consumers expect their dining habits to remain at current COVID-19 levels for the foreseeable future, Deloitte said.

The study also found that the limitations of dining out during COVID-19 combined with the continued demand for convenience is quickly accelerating the digital experience. Seventy percent of consumers prefer to order digitally for off-premise delivery, and 58% prefer to order digitally from a QSR. Further, consumers are willing to pay an average of 14% more for this convenience.

As restaurants look to appeal to the digital experience, they may leverage technologies like driverless or drone delivery, which 40% of consumers would consider for delivery of their food, according to the report. Ghost kitchens are also rising in popularity as more than half (56%) are willing to order from a restaurant without a customer-facing storefront.

“Restaurants that emerge from this unplanned inflection point in the industry’s history will be set up to provide a new standard in customer convenience, responsiveness and safety that can pay off long after the tumult of this pandemic is over,” Chick said.

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