The future of restaurants is here — and customers are at the heart of it. From fine dining to fast food, from new payment options to a continued emphasis on delivery, the restaurant industry is building experiences for an ever-evolving future. These creative business owners meet customers where they are, embrace technological advances, and foster loyal fans across channels. To understand where the future of the restaurant industry is heading, we at Square worked with Wakefield Research to survey 500 restaurateurs and 1,000 consumers.
We also gathered insights from successful Square sellers and leading industry experts. In addition, restaurant owners communicated what the future looks like from their point of view, as the people witnessing firsthand how the industry is changing are the ones striving to make it even better. Square’s Future of Restaurants report explores what restaurants care about today and tomorrow, along with the cutting-edge tools and strategies that are helping them get there.
What is the future of restaurants?
A website isn’t just an ordering hub — it’s a representation of what a restaurant is and the faces behind the business. For example, curbside pickup isn’t just for convenience; it’s for the families that don’t have time to stop for a sit-down meal. Likewise, QR codes aren’t just for contactless ordering; they understand customers and give staff more room to focus on hospitality.
The restaurant industry’s biggest challenges have propelled food businesses to think in new ways. Nearly six out of seven restaurants made business investments in 2021 as a result of the economic impacts of the pandemic.
- 2021 was about adding as many new channels as possible. 2022 is about making those channels work together to create a streamlined, omnichannel restaurant, all through the lens of the customer’s ideal experience.
- New restaurant technology is the key to unlocking this future. Nearly two out of three restaurant owners say that automation would fill critical gaps in managing online orders.
- Technology can also help solve new challenges. Nearly three out of four restaurants say that they are experiencing a labor shortage and that automated tools and integrated apps can be a part of the solution.
Restaurants have adapted by changing business models, investing in omnichannel solutions, modernizing kitchen automation, and evolving to meet the needs of their business and their customers.
How will the future of food and dining change?
People care deeply about food, and restaurants are helping them take that passion even further. Restaurant owners engage with customers in new ways, from hosting online cooking classes and virtual tastings to offering subscriptions and memberships. And 92 percent plan to do more community engagement initiatives this year to make that connection even stronger.
It used to be that experiencing the joy of eating from a restaurant meant ordering and dining in person. Today, restaurants are taking a different approach to ensure that, no matter where customers are or their comfort level with in-person dining, they can still experience their cuisine. Diners are on the same page, with 79 percent of customers saying that they prefer to order through online kiosks rather than staff, and 78 percent saying that they enjoy the benefits of ordering with QR codes.
Restaurants are also shifting away from the idea of exclusivity. Where it was once the norm in cities to wait months for a reservation or to line up around the block for brunch, restaurants of the future are providing more options, such as takeout, order ahead, and prepackaged meal kits to make room for everyone.
What will new technology in restaurants look like in 2022?
As restaurants have added more channels, they’ve introduced new technology and restaurant management tools to make the transition from on-premise to off-premise dining entirely frictionless. In addition, with more orders coming in online and in person, restaurants are prioritizing their back-of-house management tools to ensure a frictionless front-of-house experience. 90 percent of restaurants agree that increased automation would allow their staff to focus on more critical tasks.
Restaurants are also connecting with their customers across channels. From social selling to marketing, technology tools are helping restaurateurs reach both new and old customers. Omnichannel tools such as kitchen display systems, inventory management, and customer insights are invaluable as restaurants move toward a more modern future.