Off-premises dining — that is, delivery, takeout, and drive-thru orders — now accounts for 60 percent of restaurant occasions, according to a new report developed by Technomic for the National Restaurant Association. The report, which was released yesterday and digs into the factors driving the demand for off-premises orders, also notes that this trend will continue to grow and that restaurant operators who don’t yet have a strategy for off premises in place “risk being left behind.”

For consumers, drive-thru topped the list of the types of off-premises dining consumers use, with 92 percent surveyed saying they ordered via that channel at least once per month. Takeout was next, at 90 percent, followed by restaurant delivery at 79 percent and delivery via third parties (e.g., DoorDash, Grubhub, etc.) at 53 percent.

Restaurant operators are responding with more of these channels, though what they offer the most doesn’t align exactly with what consumers use. Among those restaurant surveyed, 93 percent offer takeout, followed by 66 percent doing third-party delivery, 55 percent with their own delivery operations, and 20 percent offering drive-thru.

The difference in numbers makes sense, though. For example, most non-QSR restaurants (think Olive Garden or Outback) wouldn’t have a delivery window. And more restaurants embrace third-party delivery because, for now at least, it’s cheaper to let, say, Grubhub handle the logistics and actual couriers involved in getting food from restaurant to customer.

All that said, The Association notes that operators are “not keeping up with consumer demand for technology,” which is at the heart of most of these sales channels. Twenty-nine percent of operators said they are “lagging the industry,” citing things like high costs or not enough demand to justify the cost. There’s also the matter of getting both staff and customers on board with new technologies. For example, will customers actually use a self-service kiosk if it’s installed in the front of house?

Well, that depends on the kiosk. Or digital menu board. Or mobile app. Generally speaking, the easier and more intuitive it is to use the technology, the more people are likely to use it, which is one of the reasons voice tech is becoming known in the restaurant industry as a promising solution, particularly in the drive-thru. However, some of these more advanced technologies are also some of the least prevalent, according to the report: “More advanced technologies that operators report as being most impactful to their business—location intelligence, geofencing and virtual assistants used for voice ordering—are also the least available technologies that operators currently have in place.”

Nonetheless, as the report makes clear and as we discuss often here at The Spoon, tech is the driving force behind the movement towards off-premises dining, and also the critical means by which restaurants can serve more of these customers and improve their tools. Over the next year, that 60 percent of off-premises orders will only grow. Restaurants must ensure they have the right elements in place to help them climb with it.

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