OPINIONOperations

Think to-go-only restaurants are a new thing? You're off by 70 years

Restaurant Rewind: The notion of forgoing dining areas to rely on delivery and takeout has been around since at least the Eisenhower administration. Here are two cases in point.

The story is a familiar one today: A new restaurant venture doesn’t bother to include dining or seating areas because its focus is exclusively on hot food to go.

It’s the rationale behind such new concepts as Chipotle’s Farmesa bowls spinoff, Golden Corral’s Homestyle Kitchen, Buffalo Wild Wings’ BWW Go or Texas Roadhouse’s Jaggers, to name just a few examples.  The list seems to grow daily.

But there’s nothing new about the strategy, as this week’s edition of the Restaurant Rewind podcast reports. Host Peter Romeo taps his memory as reporter and consumer to recount how the business model was used by a restaurant startup 70 years ago, to considerable success. The venture would grow to more than 1,000 outlets, making it a mammoth player of its day.

Along the way, notes Romeo, it would change the course of restaurant marketing and franchising. Yet the concept is all but forgotten, despite remaining in operation on a small scale. Romeo, editor at large of Restaurant Business, speculates that the pioneering brand’s quick fade kept it from being stamped on the industry’s collective memory.

And it wasn’t the only venture to presage today’s to-go-only concepts Romeo looks at a second example, this one truly a steak-and-potato concept, that thrived a mere 30 or so years ago.

What are these progenitors of a major modern-day trend? Download this and every episode of Restaurant Rewind from wherever you get your podcasts.

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