The restaurant industry saw some of the most trying times during the COVID-19 pandemic. Out of the necessity to keep their business open, many owners started looking towards new restaurant technology to keep their doors open. Online ordering had already started making up more and more of restaurant sales leading up to the initial lockdown but new restaurant analytics are projecting that the food delivery market is going to be worth billions more this coming year.
With all of these transitions over to new digital food technology, software companies and operations managers began teaming up to address the need for order management to be integrated into a new or existing restaurant SaaS. Restaurant tech is now more robust than ever, providing more efficient systems from the customer-facing ordering to the back of house operations.
Trends Set by the Pandemic
We've seen an unprecedented amount of restaurant innovation come out of the pandemic, better described as a complete restaurant revolution! Some changes were slight, such as moving to only outdoor seating or pushing takeaway as the primary option to order. More impressive improvements include things such as completely contactless ordering and automated kitchens that rely on mechanical components for certain tasks rather than the human touch.
An entire industry has actually spun off of the traditional restaurant path and that's the concept of ghost kitchens. Ghost kitchens leverage all of the new restaurant technology to make order and menu management completely digital, as well as no longer offering any customer-facing space. Removing the extra services means less money needed to keep the kitchen going. No dining room to staff, tables to clean, customers to keep satisfied or altercations to be managed. With ghost kitchens, customers simply have to be impressed by the food and on-time delivery, no more fanfare on the walls or buying new furnishings to create the right atmosphere.
With the transition to a completely digital experience in dining comes new opportunities to focus on that will improve your business both financially and customer experience-wise. One such option is partnering with another kitchen to help support orders from your customers. Sharing customers or having food prepper from another chef has been a touchy subject as every restaurant has its own flair and flavor, but this technique can let a kitchen focus on their signature dishes while the regular to-go orders are handled elsewhere.
Driving these extra to-go orders is the availability for a restaurant to list themselves on as many delivery apps as possible in the area. Yes there is cost associated with adding another kitchen, but it still means more orders and more revenue at the end of the day. If increasing profits is the goal but you're already handling as much business as possible, then there are other ways to help offset some overhead.
Eco-friendly practices have mainly been seen in the form of recyclable straws and cups marketed from major food chains to make consumers feel better about buying from them. It's a step, but there are so many other options to be more eco-friendly that it's surprising more aren't in use on a larger scale.
So far the largest push in the restaurant industry this year is reducing food waste across the board. Some kitchens are paring down the menu to primarily include dishes that can be made with locally sourced ingredients, changing with the harvest seasons which gives customers something new and exciting to try. Portion control is also another area of concern, for consumers and owners alike.
Dishes that always have leftovers should be made smaller to avoid extra trash for takeout containers which could actually be replaced as well so that your to-go boxes are destined for the recycle center and not the dumpster. Kitchen pop-ups that only appear for a short time have even started giving out reusable containers that customers can use at home or bring back later for a discount on their next meal.
Overall, the storm that shook the world is slowly fading out and opening up the skies for restaurant innovation. Since a majority of the food technology and order/menu management platforms have hit their current limit, owners are having to look at the rest of their processes in order to find their next project. Thankfully this has led to sustainability as the next course of action, creating a race to become the kitchen with the smallest carbon footprint.