Restaurants Are Coming Back, But In What Format?

The Lempert Report
June 01, 2021

As more of us are vaccinated, and mask mandates diminish, we are seeing more restaurants – of all kinds – from fast food joints, to fast casual to white table cloth.

What we know according to the National Restaurant Association is that over 110,000 restaurants have closed permanently due to the pandemic, and for many former foodservice employees, they are not rushing back to those jobs – leaving a labor shortage that the industry is doing its best to cope with and solve. It’s not about paying more, but changing the way foodservice workers are treated, trained and respected.

A new survey “State of What Feeds Us” of over 1,800 U.S. consumers was conducted last month by location tech company, Bluedot, this is the fourth fourth installment of the report. One of their primary findings is that there is a battle brewing between fast-food and fast casual. This latest report offers a year in review of shifting consumer restaurant habits precipitated by the pandemic, including increasing competition between fast food/QSR brands and fast casual restaurants, now that pandemic restrictions are easing. The latest data shows consistent consumer behavior across both restaurant categories, which Bluedot said signals the distinctions between the two categories are disappearing. The company has been monitoring the surge in drive-thru visits and curbside and in-store pickups, since the pandemic took hold nationally. Bluedot CEO Emil Davityan says that time is of the essense. The time to get your food that is. "The data strongly signals long wait times are a vulnerability for fast food restaurants as they compete for customers,” he says. "Brands that accelerated investments in technology and logistics to deliver faster and more frictionless service during the pandemic are beginning to level the playing field, but now there's a race to roll out restaurants of the future. It's the next evolution of personalization, speed and convenience layered with a unique brand experience that will best position restaurants to win market share." these were the consumer priorities listed in Bluedot’s report: More drive-thru options. 63% want designated drive-thru lanes for mobile orders, far outranking other restaurant innovations. 31% would revisit a restaurant if it had a dedicated mobile drive-thru lane. Modern menu boards. 40% stated a menu board that confirms their order as a top reason why they revisit a drive-thru.

Advanced personalization. 29% stated personalized deals and offers would keep them coming back to a specific drive-thru. In the future, 34% want menu boards that display their loyalty points and coupon offers while 24% want a menu board that greets them by name and knows their regular order. Text ordering. 35% want the ability to text their order to restaurants.

Smarter arrival. 35% would download an app if it meant restaurants knew when they are on their way or have arrived. Learning that supermarkets should take heed.