Perhaps no segment of the US has been more affected by the pandemic than that of the restaurant industry. Restaurants that specialize in sit-down, table service have found their entire business model challenged, while fast-food and fast-casual restaurants have had to adjust their business models to one serving carry-out and delivery customers. Furthermore, nearly all US restaurants have had to make significant investments in personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies, partitions, and disposable packaging to continue in operation.
One restaurant change that will be permanently changed by the pandemic is Steak ‘n Shake, which announced that it would be converting its restaurants from offering table-side service to one customers will serve themselves. Rather than give their orders to a server, customers will use a touchscreen kiosk to order and pay for their meals.
This switch offers a number of potential advantages to restaurant owners and managers, such as:
- reduced labor costs, as fewer employees will be needed
- enhanced safety for workers and guests, as there will be minimal interaction between customers and kitchen crews
- improved operational efficiency – a far lower risk of lost orders or errors by kitchen staff in transferring orders to point-of-sale (POS) systems
However, the change also offers an element of risk:
- Some customers – especially those who are older or less technologically savvy – prefer to order through a server, rather than enter their own orders.
- The chain will be less likely to be perceived as a sit-down restaurant and more of a quick-service chain.
- Many restaurant owners and managers may not have the funds to make further investments in their facilities right now.
Many restaurants are making adjustments to their plans and their facilities to enable more efficient carryout and delivery operations and to better accommodate third-party delivery firms (e.g., Uber Eats, GrubHub). However, time will tell as to the success of this initiative and if other chains will follow in the footsteps of Steak ‘n Shake to convert tableside ordering service to a reduced contact, tech-centered model.
For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, including US Restaurant Reopening: COVID-19 Impact on Supplies, Global Foodservice, Foodservice Single-Use Products, Global Foodservice Single-Use Products, Retail Bags, Protective Packaging, Commercial Refrigeration Equipment, and Global E-Commerce Packaging. Related reports from our sister publisher, Packaged Facts, include Food Carryout & Delivery, Food Carryout & Delivery: Special COVID-19 Consumer Insights, Consumer & Corporate Food Gifting in the US, US Food Market Outlook 2020: Home Cooking, Grocery Shopping & Food Trends in the Age of Coronavirus, Global Food E-Commerce, and Online Grocery in the US. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.