The stats are staggering: 86% of consumers are using off-premise services at least monthly. And a third are using it more than they did a year ago, said Melissa Wilson, principal with Technomic.
Food delivery, in particular, is projected to grow in the double digits—12% per year over the next five years, Wilson told an audience of restaurant operators at the Restaurant Leadership Conference this week in Phoenix.
While some operators fear sales cannibalization, the data shows that, in most cases, the concern doesn’t bear out. About 60% of operators surveyed by Technomic say that offering delivery has generated incremental sales. Just 11% felt that it impacted dine-in business, and only 7% said that it impacted takeout sales. And with 1 in 4 consumers saying they spend more on off-premise orders, there’s opportunity for increased check averages.
Generational shifts are one major contributor to consumers’ growing desire for delivery. By 2026, 80% of millennials will be parents, said Wilson. Combine that, she said, with nearly half of consumers preferring to eat at home. The result is incremental sales growth for operators who can provide the optimal food delivery experience.
In order to be competitive in the off-premise market—going against restaurant brands as well as other foodservice providers like supermarkets—operators need to address who they are going after and how, said Wilson. “A lot of brands need to re-evaluate who their heavy users are,” she said. Third-party delivery is bringing in guests to Red Robin that Carin Stutz, EVP and COO, believes the brand wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
But from there, said operators, the challenge is driving brand loyalty. “The elephant in the room is that, with third party, we don’t own that guest,” said Stutz. Figuring out that piece of the puzzle—how to partner with third parties when it comes to brand loyalty programs—is one of the top needs today, said Jim Thompson, VP of operations for Chicken Salad Chick.
In a space made up of several third-party companies, Maloney’s Grubhub remains a massive player in the online ordering and delivery business. The company takes 400,000 orders a day, on average. “While there’s a lot of excitement,” he said, “Grubhub is still twice as large as anyone out there.”
Maloney believes that online ordering and delivery will be a major part of the future of foodservice as consumers shift away from frozen food. “I believe we’re in a transitional shift in the population from frozen foods or Costco over to little restaurants,” he said. “It’s more available and more realistic. We’re in a 10- t0 20-year cycle where more people are relying on their local restaurant kitchens.”
Getting more consumers to shift their spending that way, however, will require lower fees—both to the operator and passed to the consumer. The lower the transactional fees, or “toll,” the more likely consumers will order delivery. Technology will be key for this.
“Any technology that is really going to move the needle is behind the scenes,” he said. “What can we do to get food there faster, hot and efficiently?”
One thing it won’t be: drones. “We won’t see all the stupid garbage about drones or automated robots,” Maloney said, noting that drone delivery of restaurant food isn’t doable in urban areas where delivery is most popular.
“Where do you land a drone in a city, on the roof?” he said. “How do you deliver it to a high-rise?”
Maloney does believe that the third-party delivery sector, which has lured a lot of investment in recent years, is beginning to consolidate. He calls that a “good thing.”
“A lot of money has been invested in companies that didn’t have a good idea,” Maloney said. “There’s still a lot of inefficiency in the market. There’s a lot of change. There are too many products doing silly things.”
Yelp, meanwhile, has become a mainstay for customers looking at restaurant reviews. Yelp’s sites have 100 million unique visitors, with 30 million visitors to its mobile sites. Yelp reviews are on Apple Maps, Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa. Even some cars are loaded with Yelp data.
The company is now getting into Wi-Fi marketing. But Stoppelman also says that its Nowait app could get more customers in the door at casual-dining restaurants by enabling customers to get on the waitlist from their phone, rather than at the front door.
“It’s time to retire the sticky coaster,” he said.
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