As someone who has been in the restaurant industry for decades, I’ve acquired a skill for spotting those trends that change from being an industry fad to a precedent, such as when customers began swapping out the burger buns and french fries for healthier options. I knew then what I have spent my career confirming: people want to be able to order a meal and feel good about the quality of the food that they’re eating. A simple concept, yet it has revolutionized the restaurant industry.
Recently, I’ve noticed another trend that’s quickly on the rise to becoming a standard practice, and that’s the hybrid business model. An eatery that easily flows between in-store dining and at-home delivery. A concept that caters to the changing consumer across multiple channels and platforms. A business that emphasizes the wants and needs of the people they serve.
In order to be agile in business, it’s imperative that you keep your finger on the pulse, observing closely each trend you see enter the market. From here, you’re able to see which trends are more likely to become standard practice, be ahead of significant industry changes, and in turn have a major advantage over competitors.
Adapting amidst market changes
This notion of being hyper-vigilant has become especially prevalent within the last two years. With the rise, fall and many resurgences of the COVID-19 pandemic, each and every restaurant out there has had to find a way to adapt their old practices to the demands of a new world. Virtually overnight, we went from bustling to complete shutdown. At Beyond Juicery + Eatery, this forced us to take an investigative look at what this meant for our business, and what we were going to do in order to acclimate ourselves to the changing scenery.
Prior to the pandemic, well over half of our orders were carryout. With this information in mind, we knew we had to build up our technology and hold on to this consumer base, while simultaneously streamlining them to an alternate form of ordering.
We took this opportunity to bolster our online presence and create an app that catered to both delivery customers as well as curbside delivery guests. At the peak of the pandemic, over 90 per cent of our orders came through this app. By enhancing our technology and becoming a leader in the industry, we were able to efficiently integrate the app without losing out on a significant portion of our guests. If we hadn’t taken the step to do this, we would have undoubtedly lost out on the majority of our business during that time.
Using this same tactic, we were able to build on our initial ideas and implement other key items, such as a reduced menu to increase labor efficiency, as well as new drive-thru locations and regular promotions through our app. These became the glue that held our brand together tightly during a time when we didn’t know what was around the next corner in the restaurant industry.
Incorporating a hybrid model
The pandemic has changed forever the way that the restaurant industry operates. It’s been two years, and only in recent months has inside dining become normal again. To this day, high numbers of Gen Z and millennial consumers still prefer takeout or delivery options over a sit-down meal.
This said, my advice is to look at both sides of the coin. At this point, if you have no form of delivery or off-premise dining in the works, the simple truth is that you are going to fall behind your competitors. It’s now about adapting both your business and circumstances in the same breath, to make them work for your brand. You can still maintain the aura of being a high-quality, full-service restaurant while being available on delivery apps. You can work around the regular delivery setup and find ways to keep your real, quality ingredients as fresh as they are in-store. There are unlimited options – it only matters that you identify the core values that you hold close to your brand, and keep them intact in the process of changing.
On top of this, there’s not been a better time than now to make these changes. In waiting, you’ve had the advantage of seeing what works for other businesses, and what has failed. You’ve been able to see the prototypes introduced over the span of the last two years, and you’re now in a position where you can ease into them and add your personal touch. This is the time to take note of what other people have done and make it your own, so whether it be introducing a hybrid model, adding locations with drive-thru options, or even opening a ghost kitchen, my advice to you would simply be to try something new.
As we look toward the future, we know now that it’s difficult to be absolutely certain of anything. As the last few years have taught us, the most important trait we can carry is the ability to adapt to our surroundings and be open to changing our practices.
However, it’s also important that we stay aware of ongoing trends and monitor how they’re growing over time. As it stands, delivery services are bringing in over three times the revenue than they did just five years ago. Ghost kitchens are becoming wildly popular – and some restauranteurs are opting to forego dine-in options altogether by utilizing a delivery-only system. Restaurants everywhere are supplementing real employees with kiosks and self-pay tablets, pushing the average consumer more and more towards an automated dining experience.
All of these trends are projected to continue with massive growth over the next few years, and the most imperative thing you can do now is to sit back and observe closely. Watch the changes, which ideas thrive, and what falls completely flat. And, while this is ongoing, keep your finger on which trends align most directly with your business. By staying in the know, while keeping your values in mind, you can become an industry leader with a business model you’re wholeheartedly proud of.
Mijo Alanis is the co-founder and CEO of the Michigan-based Beyond Juicery + Eatery, founded with a can-do attitude, a mission to do what others won’t, and a focus on providing exceptional customer experiences. Today, with nearly 40 locations open, the brand is expanding in Michigan, Ohio and Florida and is looking to grow nationwide