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The growing demand for off-premise dining has made it even more attractive for restaurants to expand operations. Investing in the latest restaurant technology and digital innovations can help with everything from streamlining order taking to managing multi-channel marketing.

In our pre-pandemic world, off-premise dining existed, but adapting our lifestyles to include isolation and social distancing pushed delivery into the spotlight. Joining those front-door drop-offs are newer concepts like curbside pickup and Grubhub-specific options like individual meal credits and group orders that are making in-office or at-home dining more dynamic than ever.

Two years ago, just 18% of people ordered delivery or takeout at least once a week. One year ago, that number rose to 29%, and now 61% of consumers are making delivery and takeout a part of their weekly routine.

Here are the emerging restaurant technology trends every restaurant owner/operator should be mindful of and a few tips to help you as you leverage technology to take your eatery to the next level.

 

1. Branded online ordering sites are now a necessity

The online food delivery industry is booming, with restaurants generating an impressive $26.5 billion annually, and considering that online ordering is growing three times as fast as in-house dining, that number will continue to rise. Yes, dine-in traffic is beginning to recover, but takeout and delivery sales top dine-in sales growth by 4%, leaving tons of business on the table for whoever has the foresight and resources to grab it.

In a way, hungry diners searching for their next meal via the internet are a captive audience. Typically, they’ve already decided they want delivery or pickup – they’re just waiting to see which dish, cuisine, or restaurant promotion piques their interest the most.

To stay competitive, it’s crucial restaurants not only understand the importance of online ordering but also that they have a system in place to accommodate the flood of orders that are just around the corner.

Digital innovations in restaurant technology like improved digital menus and diverse and secure mobile payment options appeal to consumers. Best of all, they help your restaurant stand out. But putting all that together on your own can be both daunting, time consuming and expensive. 

That’s where Grubhub Direct comes in. Our easy-to-use ordering system has all the tools you need to create unparalleled ordering and delivery experiences that will keep consumers coming back for more.

 

2. Enticing Loyalty Programs

Sometimes having incredible food and top-notch customer service just isn’t enough. Restaurants need an edge in order to outsell the competition. With new restaurant technology, loyalty programs and promos can be used for just that.

The average restaurant customer and rewards program member had a $167 monthly dine-out food budget in 2020, spending 92% more than non-rewards program members. But even more exciting is the $232 monthly spend racked up by loyal diners ordering takeaway.

Offering customers an opportunity to turn loyalty into savings forgers a bond between consumer and corporation that’s proven profitable time and time again. Promotions can have the same effect by giving prospective customers a reason to try out a new establishment. It also gives existing customers a reason to come back and try a new dish.

Tie together your loyalty program and food promos for deals like:

  • Discounts or a dedicated mini menu tied to a national food holiday
  • Deals linked to repeat visits, such as a free appetizer after five takeout orders
  • Dollar deals awarded to customers who refer friends and family that subsequently place a successful order
  • Discounts celebrating a loyal customer’s birthday or program anniversary

Restaurants that join Grubhub get access to our Grubhub+ customers, where there is an audience of hungry, order-primed and subscription-paying diners waiting to see what your restaurant has to offer.

Grubhub Direct users can also use built-in tools like direct-to-customer email lists and data streams to run tailored promotions or build a loyalty program from the ground up.

Restaurants that are on Grubhub Marketplace also get access to our powerful promotions and loyalty tools: A few of these tools include:

  • Targeted promotions that offer superior value by targeting the right demographic
  • Increased ROI thanks smart marketing algorithms and detailed customer data
  • Options for multiple campaign goals including attracting new customers, bringing back previous customers, starting a loyalty program, or promoting specific menu items or order types

 

3. A new restaurant service model has arrived

Big chain restaurants around the country are getting on board with a new post-pandemic business model that uses emerging restaurant technology to include multiple service channels. 

From new, expedited drive-thru lanes for delivery and pick-up orders to build-outs both inside and outside of restaurants that increase organization and make it easier for diners to snag takeout orders in a hurry, small modifications are having major impact.

At first, shifting to a takeout-only model and incorporating curbside pickup created extra stress for restaurant teams already stretched to their limit. But now that restaurant technology is catching up to the takeout trend, with apps and POS systems designed to close the gap between front and back of house workers and better ensure customer convenience and satisfaction, everybody wins.

 

4. Robots are making up for restaurant staffing shortages

Once upon a time, the Jetson’s Rosie seemed like a silly pipe dream tired parents were trying to wish into existence. Who wouldn’t want a housekeeper or cook who only made errors if their programming went awry and just needed a quick battery top up between shifts?

But the future has arrived, and it’s just as robotic as those animators of yore predicted. Facing an abundance of staffing shortages, an influx of delivery and takeout orders, and issues juggling healthy mandates and ideal orders of operation, owners are bringing technology in restaurants to help mimic service offered by human staff.

Silver Harbor Brewing Company in St. Joseph, Michigan, has Servee the Robot (nicknamed R-2-beer-2 by staff) to take orders, run food, and play music. Other institutions are turning to robotic bartenders (already in use in some casinos in Las Vegas) to sling drinks and automaton line cooks to flip burgers.

More discreet and less anthropomorphic options include handheld restaurant technology like table-top ordering systems and fast-food kiosks that eliminate or lessen the need for vulnerable human employees and speed up the time between placing an order and receiving food.

5. Ghost kitchens get their glow-up

Ghost kitchens, those trendy food emporiums that churn out grub for delivery and takeout without worrying about waiters or a dining room, continue to experience meteoric growth. And now major chains are getting in on the action, with Wendy’s estimating ghost kitchens will make up half of their 2022 store growth.

Nearly 80% of diners now say they’re more likely to order from ghost kitchens. That’s a 20% jump from last year and 32% higher than 2020. That’s a big win for restaurants hoping to fulfill more orders and add another revenue stream without doubling down on overhead like rent, utilities, and front-of-house staff. 

Ghost kitchens make use of the resources they already have — kitchen equipment, cooks, delivery partnerships — to fuel a second or even third menu concept, potentially servicing the same customers multiple times even though that customer is seemingly ordering for different restaurants.

Keeping all those balls in the air presents huge challenges for owners and operators, though. Thankfully, Grubhub is ready to meet this exciting restaurant technology trend head on with a virtual restaurant program designed to help restaurants execute their own vision or take advantage of one of Grubhub’s licensed concepts.

Download our complete checklist on how to launch a successful virtual restaurant here.

 

6. New restaurant technology: Dining goes digital with the restaurant metaverse

The concept of a metaverse that brings together social media, virtual reality, and a more in-depth virtual world isn’t necessarily new, but it’s more visible since Mark Zuckerberg chose to rebrand Facebook as Meta. The idea is that there can be a virtual, 3D space that’s interactive and educational. But how does that apply to restaurants?

At Sublimotion in Ibiza, Spain, Michelin Chef Paco Roncero uses Samsung technology and a high-tech interactive space designed by a team of architects, engineers, screenwriters, and illusionists to craft an immersive restaurant that gives diners an unforgettable experience alongside their food.

For other restaurants, the metaverse is a place to visit rather than live full-time, at least not yet. For instance, Chipotle made waves by creating a virtual restaurant inside the ridiculously popular Roblox game, giving away $1 million in free burritos to players who could then redeem their promo codes in real-world, brick-and-mortar restaurants. 

McDonalds is getting on board too, having recently filed trademark applications for metaverse restaurants, and Wingstop is taking similar steps to protect their right to sell “download virtual goods” including “virtual food and drink” too.

Imagine your diners being in the metaverse and stumbling across your restaurant on a Grubhub Marketplace kiosk, and ordering lunch straight from there. No shifting focus back to the “real world” and another device, and you might even be able to access a promo or special NFT unavailable to those who have to go meta.

Many of these concepts are simply too complex and expensive for independent restaurant owners and smaller chains to fully explore just yet. But streamlining operations and embracing technology in restaurants as it stands now will put your restaurant in a better position to transition to the metaverse, whatever that looks like, when it becomes more accessible down the line.

 

7. Delivery packaging continues to improve

Even as restaurants have one eye on virtual reality and cloud-based ordering kiosks, there are still some very tangible issues that need to be addressed in order to maintain customer satisfaction. One of those issues is packaging and how food containers are inextricably intertwined with customer satisfaction.

  • 80% of consumers are concerned about how food packaging impacts pollution and animal safety
  • 63% of the solid waste produced in the United States is derived from packaging materials
  • Choosing the wrong containers for your food can ruin the appearance, quality, and flavor of your dishes

No customer wants soggy fries trapped in a sweaty foam container, nor does a hungry family want to open their Mexican takeaway to find their salsa tubs popped open en route, spilling spicy sauce all over every other thing in the bag.

Take advantage of technological advances in container manufacturing by choosing the best to-go food containers that are not only designed for durability, but are also secure, environmentally friendly, and crafted with specific types of food in mind. 

For instance, a dry dish like pizza will do well in a recycled cardboard box while pastas and salads demand to be nestled in a bioplastic bowl that exists purely thanks to today’s manufacturing technology.

 

8. Third-party delivery apps

Arguably the most significant new technology in restaurants isn’t truly in restaurants, it’s in the hands of customers ready to place an order. Third-party delivery apps have made delivery and takeout trends possible.

These unassuming little apps take care of everything from marketing and promotions to keeping consumers up to date on when an order is prepared, packaged, and on its way to their front stoop. But not all delivery apps follow through on their promises.

When you’re looking for a reliable delivery service app, look for Grubhub Marketplace. Here you get access to the largest online food delivery marketplace in existence, tied of course to an app that connects you with an audience made up of some 33+ million diners looking for restaurants just like yours.

Here, Grubhub has harnessed the power of restaurant technology to bring together cooks and consumers. Diners get to quiet their hungry bellies, while restaurants get great benefits like:

  • A risk-free trial
  • Free merchant welcome kit
  • A free tablet and/or POS integration for managing orders
  • Free photo shoot and expert advice to make your meals look incredible
  • Menu consultation services
  • Access to a branded ordering site
  • Promotional and loyalty tools
  • Ability to respond to ratings and reviews

And that’s just the beginning. Partnering Grubhub is a fast-track ticket to better functionality, on-trend restaurant technology, and stress-free integration that powers more effective and efficient restaurant operations.

 

Restaurant technology in the bigger picture

The food we eat has always been a reflection of larger cultural trends and current events. With everything from the holistic wellness movement to sustainability affecting what we order, cook, and consume. 

Now, that same trend continues with restaurant technology shaping how we structure our work-from-home days, what we get hungry for when we’re gaming online, and how we expose our taste buds to exciting new cuisine.

Interested in seeing how Grubhub can help you stay on top of restaurant technology trends and usher your business toward a more successful future? Join Grubhub today and try it out free for 30 days. You’re going to love what you discover.