What will the typical American restaurant look like in 2030? Ask the National Restaurant Association, whose new report, “Restaurant Industry 2030” serves up some answers to that question.
Many answers, actually. The 80-page report gives us an in-depth look at everything from how the restaurant workforce will change to technologies that will become commonplace in daily operations, many of which we already see quite a bit of in 2019: self-order kiosks, dedicated areas for pickup orders, and digital drive-thru signage, for example.
Overall, restaurant sales are expected to reach $863 billion in 2019 and grow to $1.2 trillion in 2030, according to the report. The major driver of that growth will be off-premises ordering — delivery, takeout, drive-thru, and other mobile-centric experiences. That will, as the report states, change the definition of the word “restaurant”:
Some restaurants will morph into a hybrid model, offering counter service, full service, takeout and delivery, and meal kits. The delivery-only restaurant is on the rise through virtual restaurants and ‘ghost kitchens.’ New food halls feature retail and restaurant pairings to make it easy for people both to eat and to shop for food they can take home.
All of these things underscore the influence off-premises orders are having on restaurant business models. As the report states, “the shift affects everything from restaurant design to marketingtech investment, operations, and site selection.”
Take ghost kitchens as a prime example. Not so long ago, the idea of having a restaurant without a dining room for anything other than concession-type food was unheard of. Now, restaurants are not only using them to fulfill the influx of delivery orders, they are also testing out brand-new menus and, in the case of multi-brand companies, using the ghost kitchen concept to cross-promote and sell sister brands.
Third-party delivery companies, in particular, are capitalizing on the craze for ghost kitchens, with DoorDash opening its own facility in Northern California and Uber Eats and Grubhub teaming up with non-restaurant food brands to launch virtual concepts.
New business models aside, though, Grubhub et al. face a far more ominous prospect over the next decade: increased regulation of third-party delivery. The National Restaurant Association’s report notes that the restaurant of 2030 will see many a government mandate over the next decade around employees, the environment, and food service-related taxes. But the big one to stand out is the increased regulations for third-party delivery operators.
The debate over stricter regulations for third-party delivery is already in full swing. Earlier in 2019, Grubhub, Uber Eats, and indeed the entire sector came under fire when an oversight hearing was held in New York City that called into question the high commission fees these services charge restaurants. Since then, it’s been one headline after the next proclaiming antitrust issues, biased fee structures for restaurants, caps on delivery fees, ethically questionable tipping policies, and so much more.
The shift towards more regulations is already in place, most notably with California’s Assembly Bill 5, which reclassifies gig workers as employees and was signed into law in September. Third-party delivery companies are fighting AB 5, but even if they succeed, there will be virtually no end to new bills, laws, and other regulatory matters to fight over the next decade. Between that and the constant struggle for profitability for these companies, it’s safe to say the third-party delivery sector of 2030 will be markedly different from the one we know today. Which is to say, the very elements changing today’s food landscape will undergo there own change on the road to 2030.