Restaurant Business asked industry experts to peer into their crystal balls and predict what limited-service and full-service operations might look like in the next decade. Here are their educated guesses on everything from inventory-tracking refrigerators to burrito-delivering drones.
1. More prominent pickup counters
Off-premise will change the face of limited-service restaurants, prompting more- prominent pickup counters, cubbies to organize to-go orders and separate areas for plasticware to ease congestion. Expect LSRs to add dedicated entrances and drive-thru lanes for third-party delivery drivers.
2. Drive-thrus will become an extension of the pickup window
Speaker boxes will become extinct and drive-thrus will become an extension of the pickup windowas consumers grow increasingly comfortable with alternative ordering platforms like mobile, chatbots and voice-enabled technologies.
5. I believe in automation
Prep work and repetitive tasks like chopping onions or loading a pizza oven will be made more efficient, thanks to automation. But don’t count on all-robot operations, Technomic tech guru Erik Thoresen says. “I believe in automation; I don’t believe in robots. You need agility and flexibility in the back of house … It’s like the difference between a computer and a calculator.”
8. Frictionless, direct payment via credit card
At full-service restaurants, receiving a receipt at the table will likely be replaced by frictionless, direct payment via credit card, a la Uber’s model. “I would be very surprised five years from now that you get a check,” The Alinea Group's Nick Kokonas says. Consumers will register their credit card when making a reservation and will get a receipt via text or email after the meal. Cashless options will continue to expand at LSRs.
11. Online consortium of food vendors
Food purchasing and invoicing will be streamlined. Alinea's Kokonas predicts an online consortium of food vendors, each selling ingredients at competitive prices. “That marketplace doesn’t exist right now,” he says. “But there will be a marketplace where you can place an order and pay for it all in one place.”
13. Brands will become “platform agnostic”
Progressive web apps—websites that have app-like features, such as push notifications—will gradually replace mobile apps as the go-to for delivery orders. Voice ordering in the home, such as Amazon’s Alexa, will also advance, says Technomic's Thoresen. It’s likely that brands will become “platform agnostic”when accepting orders to capture the widest customer base, Cava CEO Schulman says.