Restaurant sales are expected to reach $899 billion in 2020, according to The National Restaurant Association’s recently released “2020 State of the Restaurant Industry” report. By 2030, that number will jump to $1.2 trillion. Unsurprisingly, off-premises restaurant experiences will drive a lot of that momentum in the coming years. As The Association’s report plainly states, “the future is off-premises.”
The off-premises category includes delivery, takeout, catering, curbside pickup, drive-thru, and food trucks. In the report, three in four operators say this category is “their best growth opportunity,” and the vast majority of those respondents said they expect to add more resources and technology to improve their operations around off-premises orders.
Consumer demand is clearly driving that optimism: 52 percent of adults said purchasing takeout or delivery is “essential” to their lifestyle. At the same time, certain restaurant types rely on off-premises orders for the bulk of their sales. For QSRs (73 percent), fast casuals (51 percent) and coffee and snack outlets (77 percent), off-premises is the main sales driver. In all likelihood these numbers will rise as AI technologies come to drive-thru lanes and most major QSRs offer delivery, ghost kitchens, or a combo of the two.
But before you go rushing off to mobile-order drive-thru lanes and special systems for pickup orders consider something else the report highlights: “Off-premises is an opportunity — not a requirement.”
Off-premises orders still make up a fairly small part of business in many parts of the restaurant industry. While 70 percent of customer traffic in QSRs is off-premises, eight in 10 customers still prefer to dine in when it comes to more traditional table service restaurants.
Part of that may be that there is no “one size fits all” strategy for boosting off-premises sales. A delivery strategy that works for Wendy’s may not be as effective with Chili’s, who offers different meals at completely different price points to its own unique customer base. This is why we’ve seen the rise of things like hybrid delivery and customizable ghost kitchens.
For some restaurants, such as fine dining establishments, off-premises will probably never make much sense. The vast majority, though, will adopt at least some technologies and strategies for off-premises ordering as that sales channel’s popularity increases over the next few years.