Around the 1950s, something big happened to the restaurant industry. Until that point, there were generally two kinds of dining experiences to be had in America. You could go to a traditional, full-service sit-down restaurant, or you could go to a cafe, coffee shop, or diner offering a more casual, limited-service experience.
In this more innocent time, eating out took some time and effort. You’d gather the family into the car and head to your favorite eatery for a comfortable evening meal. You might even dress up for the occasion, but regardless of what you wore, eating out meant, well, eating out. You went in, you sat down, you ordered from the menu, you ate, paid, and went on your way (perhaps with a doggie bag of leftovers).
In about 1954, that all changed. Suddenly, thanks to the slow but sure rise of the fast food restaurant, convenience was an option when choosing what to eat. The dining world would never be the same.
More is more
By the beginning of 2020, the concept of convenience was taking another quantum leap forward with the advent of delivery services like UberEats, DoorDash, and more.
Whereas before, convenience meant a quick jaunt through the drive thru or delivery of pizza or Chinese fare, delivery was now inching its way into the repertoire of more traditional establishments with the help of these third party services.
In 1955, it was estimated that 75% of meals were prepared and eaten in the home. In 2020, that number had dropped to 49%. A full 51% of meals were now coming from outside the home, whether through takeout or delivery, and this number excluded the increasingly popular pre-prepared meal kits or meals prepared and sold ready-to-eat at supermarkets.
Where meals used to be planned ahead of time, ingredients shopped for in advance, and the dishes prepared from scratch, 85% of Americans were now making their dining choices on short notice and taking advantage of more convenient options or obtaining them. Between 2014 and today, digital ordering grew 300% faster than dining in.
Convenience had its eye on the dining market share throne.
Then came COVID
As we all know, in late 2019 and early 2020, a disease called COVID-19 began spreading throughout the world. As more people became infected and the death toll continued to rise, governments across the globe took increasingly extreme measures to slow the spread until, finally, gatherings of more than 10 people were banned and businesses of every type were forced to close. One of the first industries to be affected was the restaurant industry.
With the closing of dining rooms, and with the public being forced to “shelter in place,” dining out was no longer an option. Restaurants have been forced to reinvent themselves. To keep their doors open and their employees’ families fed, they’ve had to take convenience to the next level. They couldn’t wait for customers to come to them. They had to make it as easy as possible to order. They had to take their product to the masses, and they had to do it safely. Lives and livelihoods were both at stake.
In this new world of face masks and social distancing, delivery services have become even more essential, curbside pickup is almost ubiquitous, and digital and online ordering are necessities.
Technology like OneDine’s contactless solution has eliminated the need for hand-held menus and the passing of credit cards, receipt holders, pens, etc. They have helped restaurants that previously had no drive-thru option access their share of carryout revenue by turning parking lots into contactless takeout zones. OneDine has waived all setup and transaction fees, and free sensors are being provided at no cost for Scan & Order and Scan & Pay activity to support restaurants during the COVID-19 crisis.
If there’s a lesson to be learned from history, it’s that the market doesn’t move backwards. You can give the dining public more convenience, but you can’t take it away from them. When COVID has come and gone, a cautious public won’t rush back into the dining rooms, and the restaurants that continue to push the boundaries of convenience are the ones that will rebound the fastest.
Convenience is a virus in itself, and it’s been spreading through the dining industry since Buddy Holly was at the top of the charts. It had already become a game-changer before COVID changed the world, and its rise has only been hastened by these unprecedented events. We live through our digital devices, and now we’re used to getting what we want at the touch of a screen.
Delivery and easy takeout is no longer the sole province of fast food, pizza, and Chinese. Now, even high-end fare can be summoned to our doorstep.
Convenience has officially become king.