According to the National Restaurant Association's 2019 industry report, more than 6 in 10 casual dining establishments say that their off-premise sales have increased since 2017. With this increase, plus the growth of online ordering and third party delivery services, the restaurant business is going through a redesign. Many establishments are redesigning their physical locations to accommodate those changes.
The smallest and most obvious change are dedicated lines for take-out and online orders. Fazoli's, an Italian fast food joint, even moved their pick-up counters to the front of the restaurant to facilitate customers grabbing their orders without talking to employees. Stations for pickup orders are also being added. Blaze Pizza, for instance, has added shelves that are dedicated to holding pickup orders and is installing drive-thrus at some of their locations. Redesigning the space to make people comfortable as they wait for their order to be completed has also become a priority. Blaze Pizza is considering putting in communal tables for pickup customers.
Other restaurants have added makelines dedicated to online orders to their kitchens, and they have moved their kitchens to be near their drive-thrus to make sure their off-premise customers get their food hot. After all, the percentage of adults who say they would have food delivered has increased to the point where half of millennials interviewed say that they order out. Keeping these diners happy is becoming a priority.
The biggest shift is in size. New restaurants are smaller and reserve less space for seating. Some have sent out fleets of food trucks and are experimenting with tiny sites. This is a particularly exciting development because it makes buying prime real estate feasible for restaurants and you have a lot more flexibility in how you use the space now that it is no longer devoted to tables and chairs. It reduces the amount of staff you need too, which is a relief since recruiting employees is a challenge for restaurants. Even established chains such as Firehouse Subs are downsizing their look.
As technology and social trends change people's eating habits, the restaurant industry has to change their business habits. Changing their premises is just the start.