An Approach To The Most Dramatic Changes In The Restaurant Industry According to 10 Experts

This article is part of Raydiant’s Future of The Restaurant Industry series, where experts give their takes on the most relevant changes in the restaurant industry they have seen in the past 3 to 5 years.

Outside of COVID, what have been the most dramatic changes you've seen in the industry over the past 3-5 years?

Rodion Yeroshek, Co-Founder & CEO of Poster

"Over the past five years, the restaurant market has changed dramatically, primarily due to active digitalization and automation."

The shortage of professionals in the hospitality industry is forcing owners to produce the same quality product, but with less staff. More and more restaurateurs have integrated technology to optimize service speed and save on labor costs.

All-in-one POS platforms have become more than just a trend in the restaurant industry, but are now considered an essential tool for restaurant owners and managers to integrate point of sale technology, analytics, online ordering, inventory management, and more.

David Litchman, Founder of BellyMelly

"The growth of third-party delivery apps has changed the industry dramatically over the last 3-5 years."

Although not necessarily for the better, it is now commonplace to see multiple tablets in all different types of restaurants receiving orders for patrons primarily for delivery orders.

Ingrid Hoffmann, Author, Chef and Host of Top Chef Estrellas and Simply Delicioso

"Organic, local, wild, vegan, and social media/Instagram are the most dramatic changes that come to mind, at least were before COVID. Consumers have become foodies and influencers. Everybody obsessively documents and photographs their food, heck you even see seniors doing so. To millennials, what and how they eat matters like never before in prior generations. Purposeful and conscious eating have become a thing, organic has become a relatively ordinary term, consumers have grown more focused on what and how they eat and where their food comes from hence the use of wild and local making their mark on restaurant menus and supermarket shelves."

Chuck Cooper, CFE and President of Lee's Famous Recipe Chicken

"Drive-thru has been growing into a significant portion of the sales in our stores for years, but the pandemic and its related uptick from being 65 percent of our business to now 85 percent will impact the way we offer our products to new and loyal customers."

As a heritage brand, this shift will impact the vision of how we plan service and building design, especially drive-thru, in the future.

Chris Boyles, VP of Food Safety for Steritech

"The biggest change may be the integration of technology throughout the restaurant and its broad acceptance by customers and staff."

  • Temperature sensors have been around for many years, but the ease of setup and use have improved dramatically.

  • Digital task management systems to ensure self-checks are performed on time, often with linked thermometers for direct input.

  • Ordering/payment kiosks, tablets, and apps have gone mainstream and helped to reduce common friction points in the dining experience.

  • Digital menus and signage make updates instantaneous.

Ghost kitchens (also called cloud kitchens, dark kitchens, etc.) have become more commonplace.

They allow restaurant brands to reduce operating costs by sharing overhead costs, especially for brands that are just starting or still in development. Moving forward, networks of them may help drive delivery capabilities by putting small, less expensive distribution points closer to the intended destinations.

Companies are employing new approaches to training to engage young employees and increase retention.

  • The traditional lengthy initial indoctrination has been replaced by just-in-time training on specific knowledge points as needed.

  • Training that is interactive and made into an online game has become commonplace.

Candace MacDonald, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Carbonate

"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.

Marcin Muras, CEO at UpMenu

"Putting aside the weird and wonderful world of 2020 which served up COVID-19 with a side dish of recession, the restaurant industry has been in a constant state of evolution over the last five years or so. Back in the old days, you telephoned a restaurant to book a table, you turned up, you ordered from your waiter and then you handed over cold hard cash as payment. Fast forward to the 2000s and things look a lot different. For example, we’re booking online, ordering our food from an app, and paying the bill with our watches."

Kelly Richardson, Founder of Venone

"Outside of the definitive changes that COVID has presented to the restaurant industry, over the past few years, I have also seen an expansion of the farm-to-table movement, and restaurants really highlighting the locally sourced ingredients that they use to create their dishes. Many restaurants, pre-COVID, had really started to embrace events including live music, wine dinners, and other collaborations."

Brad Brookes, Sales & Marketing Director with Speedline Solutions Inc.

"In the past few years, we’ve seen an increase in the variety of restaurant concepts offering delivery."

Many restaurant types that did not traditionally offer delivery—like burger places, pasta restaurants, and other dine-in restaurants—have started to experiment with it.

Rom Krupp, Founder and CEO of OneDine

"I’d say third-party delivery and the growth of off-premise dining. Customers are now not just expecting, but demanding delivery and to-go options from restaurants across the spectrum, from QSR to full-service. This is a huge change from a few years ago, when delivery was generally reserved for pizza or for certain restaurants in large cities like New York or Philadelphia."