Restaurant brands are blurring the lines even more as boundaries are breaking down. QSR, fast-casual, and even fine dining are flexing their ability to adapt by creating a new restaurant landscape with multiple brand concepts. The age of a single prototype design has graduated to a formula supporting more than one consumer need. The new restaurant of the future is here, and it’s dynamic.
“Now more than ever, the ball is in each restaurant’s court. What they do to respond will shape the future of each brand. Restaurants that emerge from this unplanned inflection point in the industry’s history will be set up to provide a new standard.” – Jean Chick, Principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP
Goodbye to Singular Formats
Brands are finding solace in the new era of restaurant experience, where concepts aren’t limited to one idea. Big-name players are emphasizing the importance of digitalization, localization, and reinventing what experience means to them.
Taco Bell continues to push the envelope in evolution with the launch of its “Cantina” inspired spaces. Showcasing the brand’s versatility and new ways to satisfy consumers, the Cantina experience takes steps beyond the traditional QSR, offering exclusive menu items and alcohol for the first time. For the guests that aren’t in a rush, this format marks Taco Bell as a major QSR disruptor and elevates the entire idea of who Taco Bell is as a brand.
More recently, the fast-food brand launched its digital-only Cantina concept in Times Square. Matching the pace of the active NYC lifestyle, guests who visit this Taco Bell interact through the app entirely. Perfect for those who prefer a contactless experience or off-premise dining, this new format is efficient, quick, and intuitive—something to watch for a potential scale.
If you’re unfamiliar with a ghost kitchen’s purpose, it’s simply a restaurant that offers only delivery and pick-up options, and we’re seeing a rise in their use going more mainstream. Studies show high promise for ghost kitchens, with expectations that the industry will grow by over $1.18B by the end of 2021.
Central Group, home to many restaurant brands known worldwide, including Cold Stone Creamery and KFC, expects their restaurant catalog to develop over 50 ghost kitchen concepts by 2022. Even grocery brands are taking a chance on the ghost kitchen, with Kroger recently launching their “dark kitchen” concept in select locations across the Midwest. Not an entirely new concept for Checkers has been ahead of the ghost kitchen curve for years combatting expensive real estate and producing products efficiently. With the company finding more success with their drive-thru-only locations, they plan to accelerate the flexible models that they can continue to roll out.
As brands are rethinking their prototypical formats, restaurants are prioritizing accessibility. QSR is leading the way by building experiences that specifically address their core consumer’s needs.
Sweetgreen, always looking to build healthier communities, which means accessibility is a key priority for their guests. Currently in the testing phase at new drive-thru locations, Sweetgreen has integrated a digital component that gives their guests options when building orders. Through their app, orders can be placed and accessed via pick-up, delivery, or drive-thru. The new digital menu features exclusive dishes that are created by Celebrity American chefs Kwame Onwuachi and Missy Robbins. All to heighten awareness and their commitment to high-quality foods that are accessible to everyone. This new approach to accessibility is paying off, with the company seeing a 178% growth in digital ordering.
Restaurants are finding that success isn’t limited to one foodservice model, rather it’s a blend of ideas and options that bring it all together. As brands evolve their operations, this new restaurant of the future formula is tech-forward, socially oriented, and accessible with the experience taking shape in many forms.