Posted in Trends on January 25, 2022
Given the sweeping, pandemic-propelled changes that permeated the foodservice industry in 2021, it’s a safe bet that this will be a bold year of next-level transformational trends. And technology is sure to be at the forefront of the seismic shifts across the competitive landscape.As Nation’s Restaurant News reported, four tech areas in particular are poised to reach new heights and extend their reach and impact in the new digital world of foodservice: robots, ghost kitchens, consolidation and the metaverse.1
The pandemic has accelerated technological integration as a way to boost operational efficiency while reducing labor costs. As we’ve explored here at Let’s Chat Snacks, technology has made significant inroads into delivery innovation. Cases in point: Domino’s self-driving delivery vehicle and El Pollo Loco’s pilot program for drone delivery.
Ghost kitchens have been casting a spell on the industry for a while now with a swift and ongoing evolution that includes a hybrid model that goes beyond takeout and delivery and integrates aspects of the transitional restaurant format. With Inspire Brands and Chick-fil-A opening their own ghost kitchens,1 we can expect the evolution to escalate into vertically integrated models at other restaurant companies as well.
Also expect the restaurant tech consolidation trend to continue as demand for fully integrated tech systems increases at restaurant operations across segments. Rather than try to develop large-scale tech integrations on their own, major restaurant chains are likely to follow the example of Yum Brands and acquire tech companies.
Watch for cloud-based restaurant software company Toast—now that it brings an $870 million IPO to the table—to expand with acquisitions in its quest to become the industry’s preeminent provider of tech solutions.1
Less known and less developed than the other three tech trends to watch in 2022 is the metaverse, “a more immersive version of the internet, in which the digital and physical worlds become intertwined with the help of technology like augmented and virtual reality, geolocation and the Internet of Things,” as Nation’s Restaurant News put it.1 Chipotle has used the Roblox gaming platform as a virtual restaurant location where visitors could get a code for a burrito in real life and win digital swag.1
Incredible Shrinking Footprint: Major Chains Step Up Off-Premises Capabilities
Another key trend we’ve kept pace with throughout 2021 that’s sure to pick up speed in the new year: Restaurant units reconfigured with smaller footprints to maximize off-premises channels.
As part of the buffet restaurant segment, which was hit particularly hard by the pandemic, Golden Corral plans to pivot to smaller fast-casual units of 3,500 to 4,000 feet, compared with the brand’s traditional 12,000-square-foot building per unit.2 The move could bolster off-premises sales, which grew from a mere 2% of sales to about 10% during the pandemic.2
In shrinking its brick-and-mortar footprint in favor of optimizing takeout and delivery, Golden Corral will be following the lead of other major brands like Chipotle and Starbucks, which are committing to leaner and nimbler models for the long haul.
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1 Guszkowski, Joe, “What’s Next In Restaurant Technology,” Restaurant Business,December 21, 2021
2 Ruggless,Ron, “Golden Corral looks at smaller units, possible value steakhouse,” Nation’s Restaurant News, December 21, 2021