The latest National Restaurant Association “State of the Restaurant Industry” report paints a clear picture of what it will take for restaurants to remain competitive in 2022: more investment in customer-friendly tech.
While the service industry continues recovering from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the report shows that the restaurant sector is making up some of that lost ground. Restaurant hiring and consumer spending are both up, and in a positive sign for restaurants ready to gain a fresh foothold, the Association reports that pent-up demand for restaurant ordering and dining remains high. Around 50% of surveyed respondents indicated they are not using restaurants as much as they’d like.
The Post-COVID Pivot
Several factors, the report says, are driving restaurant demand, and among the most prominent are holdovers from the way restaurants pivoted during the pandemic to meet unique customer needs, often by turning to tech-rich approaches like online ordering and curbside pickup.
“It didn’t take long for restaurant operators to respond to the challenges inherent in the pivot to all off-premises business,” the report says. “The resources they developed and innovations they employed were, in many cases, so effective, they’re likely here to stay for the foreseeable future.”
Customers Want to Use More Restaurant Tech in 2022
Now accustomed to the convenience and other benefits offered during the pandemic, restaurant customers are clamoring for even more tech in their dining experiences. The Association reports:
● 52% of customers would like to see tech that makes ordering and payment easier
● 51% would like to see customer service improvements
● 49% would like more convenient takeout/delivery options
● 46% would like the restaurant experience to be faster
● 44% would like restaurants to provide more food info about allergens, nutrition, and how it was sourced
● 29% would like restaurants to provide more entertainment options
Modern customers are overwhelmingly using technology to some degree when it comes to selecting and ordering from restaurants:
● 57% have viewed a restaurant menu online in the past year
● 45% looked up location, directions, and hours online
● 44% placed online orders for takeout/delivery
● 30% read online reviews
● 18% used mobile pay at a restaurant
● 17% used a tablet to order at a restaurant
● 16% used a restaurant kiosk to order
● 13% made online reservations
Alcohol-to-Go is Here to Stay for Many States
One interesting trend to arise from the COVID-19 pandemic pivot involves alcohol-to-go (ATG). Customers surveyed by the National Restaurant Association responded positively to newly enacted legislation that allowed restaurants to offer ATG. 37 states updated their laws to temporarily allow to-go alcohol sales in some capacity during the pandemic, and 14 of those have announced extensions to those laws. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have extended their policies permanently.
As quoted in the report, Mike Whatley, VP State Affairs and Grassroots Advocacy at the National Restaurant Association says the ability to continue offering alcoholic beverages with takeout and delivery orders could boost off-premises sales by 5-10%.
Investing in Restaurant Tech = High ROI and Improved Operations
When it comes to investing in restaurant technology, the return on investment (ROI) is high. After implementing tech solutions, companies report a 2-4% improvement on food and labor costs — a $20,000-40,000 higher profit per year, per unit. Restaurants are using tech to improve overall operations, too. The right tech can help restaurants:
● Solve issues like inventory problems and point-of-sale system integration
● Gain holistic insight into operations and performance metrics
● Give better customer service
● Tap into valuable data insights
● Create smarter schedules
● Reduce turnover
Customers Want More Off-Premise Dining Options; Tech Can Help Make it Happen
One of the most compelling reasons to shift to a tech-focused approach is to better appeal to modern customer demand. This QSR article highlights a key component of that demand: an increase in preference for off-premise dining opportunities since before the pandemic. Off-premise dining and tech go hand-in-hand. Customers are demanding more off-premise dining options as well as the tech to access them.
The article points to several compelling stats from the National Restaurant Association report. Restaurant operators reported they devoted more resources to off-premises approaches since the outbreak began in March, including:
● 49% of family dining restaurant operators
● 52% of casual dining operators
● 54% of fine dining operators
● 35% of quick service operators
● 45% of fast casual operators
● 27% of coffee and snack operators
Not surprisingly, operators overwhelmingly reported a large proportion of off-premises sales compared with pre-COVID-19 levels, including 69% of family dining restaurant operators, 70% of casual dining operators, and 63% of fine dining operators. Seventy-four percent of both quick service and fast casual operators reported a bump, as well as 56% of coffee and snack restaurant operators.
Restaurant Tech in 2022 and Beyond
The pandemic was challenging for virtually every customer-facing industry, and now, restaurants face a rapidly changing set of customer expectations. Investment into technology like online-ordering systems, data analytics, and automation can help restaurant operators take advantage of the unique opportunities that exist in the post-COVID world.
Onosys is the leading enterprise ready web, mobile app, and call center ordering platform for multi-unit restaurants purpose built by digital transaction experts. Our restaurant clients enjoy building dynamic, user-friendly sites and systems that both customers and operators will love. Complex menus are welcome and are presented in an enticing but simplified way.
Onosys can build a solution that integrates with the POS, payment, loyalty, gift card, and delivery systems that you love and make it feel like an extension of the restaurant website. Best of all, when support is needed, it’s just a phone call away.