“Simpler is better” seems to be the mantra of foodservice these days. The pandemic has not only put prevention center of plate, but also it has created a hunger for optimal convenience as consumers seek safe and simple options to address their foodservice needs.
The pandemic-propelled shift to off-premises is reshaping the restaurant landscape, literally, as smaller-footprint stores designed for digital and drive-thru orders emerge. In August 2020, the Mexican food chain Taco Bell served up the hot news of its new store format, Taco Bell Go Mobile, which will cater to customers hungry for the speed and convenience of double drive-thrus, contactless curbside pickup and digital integration.
Curbside pickup may have seemed like a pitstop on the road to a post-pandemic return to normal, but it continues to gain ground as a viable off-premises channel. Popular for its safety and convenience (allowing consumers to leave their homes and consume their food in the safe haven of their homes or cars), curbside pickup is becoming an entrenched pattern of behavior that's likely to continue after the outbreak subsides.
According to the market research firm Technomic, 40% of consumers surveyed have used curbside pickup during the pandemic, and 66% expect to continue using it once dine-in service returns.1 “While curbside pickup may have been introduced as a temporary solution during the pandemic, there is demand for this service long term as consumers become accustomed to it,” Technomic reports.2 As a result, curbside pickup is an area of opportunity for foodservice establishments. “Operators can consider whether or not they plan to offer curbside and, if so, invest in the service.”2
As coronavirus rates fluctuate, one thing holds steady—the need for innovation due to the market’s insatiable appetite for safety, ease and convenience. The new norm is fueled by digital advances, and the road leads to ever-accelerating innovation as foodservice operators navigate the challenges of the pandemic and the shifting needs of the consumer.
Strong off-premises capabilities have become the not-so-secret sauce of success for foodservice operators during the COVID-19 crisis. Pizza chains in particular have become delivery powerhouses.