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 Chuck Cooper, CFE and President of Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken.
Outside of COVID, what have been the most dramatic changes you’ve seen in the industry over the past 3-5 years?
CC: 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.
What are the top trends you see shaping the future of the restaurant industry in the next 3-5 years?
Double drive-thrus (where possible) to better accommodate online ordering with an outside lane for peak time order ahead with the addition of staffing outside, pre-orders, and tablets.
Future parking will be designed to accommodate curbside delivery and increase safety and security for customers and staff.
Future staffing will focus resources on drive-thru.
Speed of service even for large, family-style orders that serve as a valuable home meal option.
What technology do you believe will have the biggest impact on the restaurant industry in the next 3-5 years?
Digital outdoor to incorporate video with pre-order/order confirmation technology.
Contactless payment options in the drive-thru with pay through the Lee’s app.
What’s the future of restaurants?
CC: Lee’s will continue its dine-in services, when and where safe to do so, in each of the communities we serve. But the increase in drive-thru business has accelerated our planning around the concepts of double drive thru’s, smaller or optional footage allocations for future dine-in options, and builds that feature larger kitchen capacities. Many of our older stores were designed to offer our fresh made products in smaller volumes, which can be a challenge in offering new menu items, accommodating new equipment and technology, additional storage, and prep areas to meet higher sales volumes. Operators will continue to have a choice to build-out dining space, but Lee’s stores of the future will focus on the drive-thru experience, delivery, and carryout areas with dedicated parking for curbside pickup.