Ongoing Innovation and Adaptation within the Restaurant Industry

Dine in a glasshouse

Our team has been inspired by the different ways restaurants have adapted due to the impact of Covid-19. From curated outdoor dining experiences to unique take-out and delivery options, restaurants have pivoted their businesses in a way that will likely have a long-term impact on the industry. As we approach the end of the year our team has been contemplating the future of the dining experience and some adaptations that will likely stick with us.

#1: Small Greenhouses and Private Pods

During Covid, we’ve seen the growing desirability of outdoor dining in many areas of the country. As the seasons change, restaurants in colder locations are presented with a challenge: how to maintain an operable outdoor dining experience while controlling for weather.

Our Director of Marketing, Sara, discovered an innovative way to solve for this problem which combines industry trends including the desirability of outdoor seating and experiential / VIP dining ‘zones’...

Mini Greenhouses!

In this case, each house can seat 10 people and is equipped with an air purifying HVAC system for climate control. An Amazon Alexa allows diners to select their favorite music. We think that we’ll definitely be seeing continued innovation using private dining pods as a vehicle for one of a kind dining experiences.

The current plans allowing expanded outdoor dining space in many cities means that restaurants might be investing in these pop-up dining pods as temporary solutions. Each pod can easily be removed as conditions necessitate which makes them ideal for restaurants looking for flexible dining options.

#2: Mobile Only Experiences

Throughout the Covid crisis, many restaurants have offered take-out only options. As dining rooms reopen, we’ll continue to see restaurants place a stronger emphasis on deriving revenue from takeout by elevating it to a more engaging experience. Fast-food chains are already concepting locations that streamline and prioritize takeout service. Sonic is capitalizing on its existing strategy while chains like Burger King and Taco Bell have revealed plans for mobile focused locations.

In higher-end restaurants, we’ll also see brands prioritizing branded packaging and take-away items so that guests still feel that they are getting the full experience even though they are eating at home. Brown paper bags and plastic utensils will no longer cut it when it comes to take out as customers look for a more elevated at home experience. Specialty menus with take-out only custom dishes or five course meal options have also been increasingly popular as people look to create an elevated experience. The Brother’s Sushi in LA has capitalized on this trend with specialty omakase options available for take out as well as full sushi kits with everything customers need to make hand rolls at home. The Broken Shaker, with various locations from NYC to Miami, has also pivoted to offer take out cocktail kits for guests to enjoy at home.

#3: Contactless In House Experiences

While mobile-only options will be successful in certain areas, we will also likely see further development of contactless experiences for diners. Technology will drive this trend and will allow consumers to order, dine and pay with limited contact. This technology is something that we have seen in the industry in the past but will likely become more mainstream and permanent in the many locations that embrace a different level of service and want to offer a variety of dining experiences in the long term.

#4: Ghost Kitchens and Virtual Restaurants

Ghost kitchens are here to stay. With the increased financial burden of trying to open and maintain full service restaurants, we will continue to see the growth of these transparent production kitchens. These facilities allow people to cut the costs of operating a traditional restaurant and invest in creating a menu and experience built for delivery, and can work for new brands or for existing brands. In heavily populated areas, existing restaurants might invest in operating multiple ghost kitchens that allow them to deliver to a larger area than their existing location might allow. Ghost kitchens also provide additional capacity as-needed and consumption trends shift.

Restaurants that currently have brick-and-mortar locations can also capitalize on delivery options by creating delivery-specific exclusive choices. While operating at a limited capacity in the restaurant, they can rely on loyal customers that are familiar with their brand to place orders online and boost business. Cracker Barrel recently announced that they will be using the ghost kitchen format to help support their limited dine-in business. The brand will be converting one of their restaurants in Indianapolis to a catering-only kitchen, and will handle large catering orders, some delivery orders and assist surrounding locations during the upcoming busy holiday season.