Consumer Trends

Customers return to restaurants, but they use them differently

A new Deloitte survey found that restaurant dining has returned to pre-pandemic levels, but customer behavior has shifted. Convenience matters more than ever.
people dining out
Restaurant dining has rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, the survey found. | Photo: Shutterstock

The future of the restaurant industry will be shaped by consumer demand for convenience and frictionless digital experiences.

That takeaway was a key point in “The Future of Restaurants: The New Normal and Beyond,” a new survey from Deloitte released Wednesday.

Restaurant dining has rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, Deloitte reported, with 55% of the 750 survey respondents saying they are dining out as much or more than they did pre-COVID. But some behavior has shifted.

• 37% of dine-in guests and 40% of takeout customers are looking for less expensive options along with promotions and discounts.

• Higher quality products are less of a driver than value, with quality resonating with only 19% of dine-in guests and 15% of takeout. But 60% of consumers said they are unlikely to accept lesser quality when ordering takeout food.

• 13% of restaurant customers use third-party apps or websites to order delivery or takeout, but 40% prefer to order through the restaurant’s own app or website. Deloitte's conclusion is that this demonstrates the importance of a restaurant owning its digital experience.

• A strong majority of consumers—87%—believe a delivery fee of $5 or less is fair for the convenience it brings.  

• More than half of respondents (52%) indicated they would order from a ghost kitchen that offers takeout and delivery only.

Contactless delivery has maintained prominence since the pandemic, enabling faster deliveries; 53% of respondents receive contactless delivery more than half the time.

• Younger consumers (18-38) are more likely to return to restaurants that use automation technologies—58% versus 42% for those 39+.

• Voice-automated ordering systems are gaining acceptance, with 79% of consumers saying they would be somewhat likely to use them for drive-thru orders, 74% for phone systems and 70% for dine-in.

“The restaurant industry is emerging from the pandemic with a menu full of opportunities to serve its customers, both in the dining room and off-premise,” said Jean Chick, principal with Deloitte Consulting and U.S. restaurant and food service leader. “With large-scale changes on the horizon, driven by advanced technologies and ongoing shifts in consumer demands and preferences, we can expect restaurants to look dramatically different in 10 years. As a result, restaurants should consider implementing various offerings that enable consumers to maximize the dining experience and set up their operations for long-term growth.” 

Deloitte compiled the data from the responses of 750 consumers surveyed in March 2023, who had ordered from a restaurant within the last three months.

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