This article is part of Raydiant’s Future of The Restaurant Industry series which interviews top experts on their perspective of technology and trends that are shaping the industry.
The following is an interview we had with Candace MacDonald, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Carbonate.
Outside of COVID, what have been the most dramatic changes you’ve seen in the industry over the past 3-5 years?
CM: Many of our trends from the past 3-5 years have only been accelerated by COVID-19. The biggest shifts we had observed at the end of 2019 seem to be even more prevalent. Delivery, ghost kitchens or virtual kitchens, cross-cultural cuisine, etc.
Delivery has been a huge growing trend, and for several years restaurant operators have mostly had a negative relationship with consumers’ increased demand for delivery. Stay-in-place forced operators to reconsider these feelings and take a fresh look at how to tackle the only revenue streams available — carryout and delivery. This brought forth an incredible amount of creativity! We predict more operators will reevaluate their approach and find multiple ways for consumers to enjoy a taste of their restaurant at home: meal kits, prepared ingredients, party kits, house-made bread, cocktails to go, and delivery of meals more often associated with china plates and white tablecloths than with cardboard boxes. Consumers now will interact with restaurants in numerous ways.
What are the top trends you see shaping the future of the restaurant industry in the next 3-5 years?
CM: Over the past few years cross-cultural cuisine has taken new form as Americans adopt flavors from immigrant communities and as chefs pay tribute to their mixed-race upbringings. Generation Z, coming of age now, is the most diverse generation yet. American food and the restaurants we crave are about to get much more diverse. And while the restaurants and the food available will get much more diverse, restaurants’ menus will get shorter, in order to operate more efficiently and lower costs. This in large part due to the way COVID-19 brought to light all of the inequalities and inefficiencies in restaurants to this point.
What technology do you believe will have the biggest impact on the restaurant industry in the next 3-5 years?
CM: Technology has been growing and changing rapidly, and restaurants have been slow to catch up. That is finally changing as companies like Venga, Toast, and 7 Rooms introduce technology to help restaurants collect and use customer data, connecting their reservation platform to their POS system. This will allow restaurants to use sophisticated marketing strategies that have been commonplace in retail for ages. At the same time, restaurant websites will evolve as well, no longer a fairly static site providing basic information, but instead a site that really represents the restaurant brand and that changes dynamically with the restaurant and adopts some techniques from e-commerce sites.
Technology will also be used to improve the delivery experience. Up until now, the delivery component has just been a matter of schlepping food from one place to another, with little thought about that experience or how to maintain the quality of the food; now with delivery taking up such a large percentage of restaurant sales, we’ll see technical solutions to improve that experience, with examples like CRAVE in Boise, ID.
At the same time, robotics and fresh vending machines will be employed more and more to provide fresh and affordable meal options in more places. Hospitals, schools, transportation centers and even entertainment or sports venues may adopt some of this technology to easily provide fresh and potentially even customizable meal options in places where it’s lacking.
What’s the future of restaurants?
CM: Restaurants of the future will be multifaceted, harvesting technology to operate efficiently, but offering a full range of services, from dine-in to delivery, meal kits and take-and-bake meals, and prepared sauces to go, cooking classes and wine tastings, interacting in even more ways with their community. These restaurants will also be focused, targeting the issues and foods they are passionate about while paying more attention to what works, what doesn’t, and taking a data-driven approach to adjust quickly.