In the rapidly evolving landscape of the restaurant industry, understanding and adapting to emerging trends is key for owners looking to purchase a franchise or update an existing establishment. The “restaurant of the future” is not a distant concept, but an evolving reality shaped by consumer preferences and technological advancements.
Understanding What Diners Want
The future of the restaurant industry is built on a deep understanding of what diners seek. Today’s consumers are more discerning and have specific criteria for evaluating their dining experiences. These include the quality of food, portion sizes, pricing, service, overall experience, and consistency.
Consulting company Deloitte reported in March 2023 that of the restaurant customers polled, 77% said lower price options would encourage them to purchase from restaurants again. Of that 77%, 40% identified themselves as takeout guests, while the remaining 37% identified themselves as dine-in guests. Additionally, 60% of customers Deloitte polled said they wouldn’t accept lower-quality food from takeout, and 87% thought that a delivery fee (of $5 or less) was acceptable.
This report gives evidence of how restaurant customers, both those who order takeout or delivery and those who prefer to dine in, are increasingly looking for honest and fair pricing, where the value matches the cost. Any attempt to cut corners, such as charging more for smaller portions or compromising on quality, is likely to be met with dissatisfaction. Diners also seek convenience in ordering and food delivery options, along with the ability to customize meals for special dietary needs. While diners want to save money where they can, they are willing to pay for the quality and convenience they expect. The restaurant of the future must align with these expectations to cultivate a loyal customer base.
Service Technology Trends
Service innovation is a significant driver in shaping the restaurant of the future. Some of the most influential trends in the industry include the following:
- Digital ordering: Ordering kiosks and online ordering systems are becoming standard in the industry, enhancing efficiency and customer convenience. 1
- New delivery methods: The advent of drone delivery and no-contact delivery options, especially in the post-pandemic era, reflects an increasing demand for safe and innovative delivery methods.2
- Commercial kitchen automation: Automation in kitchens can streamline production, complementing human skills rather than replacing them.3
The restaurant of the future will need to balance technological advancements with unique and memorable service offerings to stand out. Customers desire convenience and efficiency without sacrificing taste or overall food quality. A restaurant that can find that happy medium will have the best chance of lasting long into the future.
The ingredients used and the menu offerings are pivotal in defining the restaurant of the future. Some trends have emerged in recent years that will guide the kinds of food that restaurants provide, such as the following:
- Localized sources: There’s a clear shift towards locally sourced ingredients, as consumers increasingly value freshness and support for local businesses. Restaurants can make connections with local providers to gain access to fresh ingredients and support the local economy.1
- Plant-based alternatives: Plant-based foods are essential to a restaurant that wants to provide meal options for people with special dietary needs or who choose to adopt selective diets, such as vegetarians and vegans.1
- Sustainable food sources: Sustainably produced ingredients are not just passing trends but are becoming essential menu inclusions. These choices reflect a broader societal shift towards environmental consciousness and varied eating habits.1
For restaurants to satisfy the changing demands of diners, they must incorporate these elements into their menus as much as possible. Every restaurant or franchise has its own identity, but the more they can work within their cuisine to meet varying customer tastes, the broader their customer base will become over time.
Management and Operation Trends
Operational excellence is critical in defining the restaurant of the future. Not only are customers changing their diets and embracing technology, restaurant design and operations are also shifting. Emerging trends that are shaping the future of the restaurant industry include:
- Ghost kitchens: Ghost kitchens are becoming more prevalent as delivery-centric and virtual restaurants are proving to be viable business models. This trend allows the owners of existing commercial kitchens to make the most use of their space while allowing restauranteurs to do business without having to invest in the cost of setting up and maintaining a commercial kitchen.2
- Smaller building footprints: Smaller footprint restaurants focus more on delivery than dine-in service, responding to the growing demand for convenience.1
- Sanitation: Enhanced cleaning and sanitation practices have become paramount, especially in the wake of global health concerns. Using up-to-date cleaning methods or hiring third-party cleaning services that specialize in commercial kitchens is an important element to ensuring a restaurant’s future.1
- Personalized, novel dining: There’s a growing trend towards restaurants offering personalized and immersive dining experiences. For those that want to continue to focus on dine-in service, adding additional, interactive elements to the experience can help. Examples include beer and wine tastings, chef’s tables, and cocktail mixing classes.4
- Data-driven marketing: Leveraging customer data to tailor marketing strategies and adjust menus is another trend gaining traction. Online customer reviews, consumer polls, and ordering histories make good sources to understanding what restaurant diners want to see.4
- Kitchen staff cross-training: Cross-training staff to perform multiple roles is becoming increasingly important for operational flexibility and efficiency. Having staff that can handle different jobs depending on who’s available on a given day helps a restaurant’s staff maintain a consistent level of service and food quality, meet customer demands, and safeguard the restaurant’s reputation.1
The restaurant of the future will harness these operational trends to create a more dynamic, efficient, and customer-responsive business.
The future of fast food, as well as restaurants in general, is a multifaceted concept that encompasses understanding customer preferences, adopting innovative service methods, embracing sustainable food trends, and implementing efficient operational practices. For restaurant owners seeking to invest in a franchise or revamp an existing establishment, staying attuned to these trends is crucial for longevity and success. By integrating these elements, restaurant owners can not only meet the current demands of the market but also anticipate and adapt to future changes, ensuring a sustainable and thriving business in the competitive world of the restaurant industry.
Join a Forward-Facing Franchise, Antioch Pizza
At Antioch, we’re thrilled to offer you the opportunity to join a growing franchise that can give you a bright future in the quick-service restaurant industry. We’re an Italian restaurant franchise with a goal: to serve people goodness and make everyone a regular. We want entrepreneurs who are committed to providing customers with quality food. For over 15 years, we’ve been honing our skills and knowledge of the industry, and we want to share that experience with you, providing guidance and support as you grow with us. Submit a franchise form today to learn more about your opportunity with Antioch Pizza.
1Total Food Service, “Restaurant Trends That Will Shape the Future of The Industry Post-Pandemic.”
2Kitchen Rebel, “This is The Future of Dining in 2073.”
3Square, “The Top Restaurant Trends in 2023.”
4LinkedIn, “Restaurant Industry Trends for 2024.”