Even if all variants of the coronavirus were to disappear tomorrow, there probably wouldn’t be a significant decline in either off-premise or on-premise digital restaurant ordering.
That’s one of the key takeaways from the third annual report from Deloitte Consulting, titled “The Restaurant of the Future: A Vision Evolves.”
The trend toward digital ordering comes from consumers’ increased desire for—and expectation of—convenience, due to advances in technology and restaurant loyalty programs, among other factors.
In September, Deloitte surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults ages 18+ who had dined in a restaurant within the past three months.
Among the respondents, 61% said they had ordered takeout or delivery at least once per week. That was up from 29% a year earlier and 18% before the pandemic.
It was an unexpected finding for Jean Chick, principal and U.S. restaurant and food service leader at Deloitte. “I did expect an increase, but I think I was surprised that it went up 32 [percentage points],” Chick tells Marketing Daily.
Even before the news about the Omicron variant began to spread, almost two-thirds (64%) of respondents indicated they would not return to pre-pandemic, in-restaurant dining in the coming six months.
“I think a lot of it has to do with convenience,” says Chick. “That is the overall theme that we’ve seen consistently from 2019 to 2020 to 2021. Convenience is winning the day on consumers’ decisions as it relates to restaurant choices.”
While digital ordering and increased engagement with loyalty programs are, to a certain extent, pandemic-driven activities, “I believe they are permanent behaviors and will change the way consumers prefer to eat out and order in,” Chick adds.
More than three quarters (79%) of respondents indicated their participation in a loyalty program plays a role in deciding where to dine.
Forty percent preferred to use a restaurant’s own branded website or app for digital ordering, compared to 11% who favored third-party ordering/delivery platforms.
Chick attributes this to the continuing evolution of third-party services and the various perks from restaurant loyalty initiatives.
The penchant for digital ordering extends to on-premises dining—with 64% of respondents preferring to order in that fashion, even if it means less interaction with wait staff.
That’s up from 53% in 2020.
“It’s two things,” Chick adds. “There’s an expectation for them to be able to order digitally, and the technology has significantly improved, specifically over the past two to three years.”