Data IntelligenceStaff

Trends and Concepts Changing the Restaurant Industry in 2018

“A wise man adapts himself to circumstances, as water shapes itself to the vessel that contains it.” –Chinese Proverb.

I’ve watched on as many a restaurant, including my family’s, clung hard to past success in changing times. It’s really like trying to row a boat upstream—eventually, the tide and currents will have their way with you. 

So, let’s take a look at the changes knocking upon restaurateur’s doors and which ones may be beneficial to your operation.

Capitalizing on Multiple Venues in One Location

When I first entered the restaurant business, marketing was all about “the brand.” You wanted your current customers and potential guests to think in terms of what you stood for and the experience they could expect again and again. Great steaks? –Ruth Chris Steakhouse. Fresh and seasonal? –Tender Greens. Hot Dogs? –Portillo’s. Nitro cold brew? –Dunkin Donuts.


Yes, it’s true. Walk into one of the experimental locations and you’ll find much more than donuts and their newer foray into espresso-based drinks. On one side, you’ll see what looks very much like a bar and includes a barista pouring draft decaf, dark roast, green tea and cold brew.

On the other side, they offer fresh fruit and boxed “healthy” treats. Obviously, this is what they had in mind when they took “Donuts” out of the “Dunkin.”

They’ve also embraced 2018 with a special drive-thru lane for those that have placed their order on the mobile ordering app. Next, we’ll be seeing digital ordering kiosks.

Delivery and Take Out…Again

Every week we seem to hear about yet another restaurant, grocery chain or superstore adding delivery to their stables. While some restaurants are concerned about the quality of food after a 15-minute drive and the loss of the experience involved in eating out, others have concluded that this is indeed the wave of the future.

Valuable space is now being dedicated to delivery orders.

According to NDP, revenue from deliveries has increased by 20 percent in the last five years. Some restaurants are seeing a tremendous growth when signing on with third-party delivery businesses such as GrubHub and Caviar—so much so that it has become the majority of their business.

In order to accommodate this demand and lower the cost of a brick-and-mortar location, restaurants turned to virtual or ghost kitchens. Unfortunately, this venue has proved challenging. Enter Kitchen United and other kitchen commissaries such as Postmates kitchen space in Los Angeles. These sites offer restaurants the space they need to expand their delivery services without having to fork over the necessary capital required to meet the demands that come with this aspect of their business.

Kitchen United includes a cloud-based ordering system that incorporates the restaurant’s ordering system with the third-party delivery systems.

BJ’s Restaurants, a brand that includes 198 units across the U.S., reports that their delivery and takeout orders have almost doubled in the last year.

Baby Boomers

You may have thought that restaurants were turning to the Millennials for both their labor force and customer base. Think again. With labor woes in full swing, restaurants are looking to baby boomers to fill the gap.

According to the National Restaurant Association, the fastest growing sector of the industry’s work force is people in the 55 and older age bracket.

It seems to be a win-win situation. Baby boomers are finding themselves with time on their hands after leaving or retiring from their long-term employment, and they are also looking down the road at possibly 30-plus years that will require additional income. Restaurants are finding this generation to be dependable and thankful.

The industry is also finding that Baby Boomers are still a solid consumer bracket, particularly with brands they’ve become familiar with. Some of the brands reinventing their marketing strategy in order to draw this older generation back into the fold include Applebee’s and Chili’s. And, with Baby Boomers making up 62 percent of fast-food and drive-in restaurant’s consumer base, it’s no surprise that McDonalds plans to customize offerings with this age group in mind.

Food Courts Transformed

Food courts were once a place to stop for a quick bite when you took time out from your weekend shopping spree. They were a place that offered everyone something to suit their taste be it Chinese, Italian, or American chicken wings and subs. Today, food courts are morphing into much more.

As malls become mixed-use entertainment venues, developers are using the food court space to call people in. A recent addition to the country’s mega-food halls is Tysons Galleria in McLean, Virginia. The 41,000-square-foot space includes a total of nine venues that offer both full- and quick-service restaurants and bars. 

Going one step further is The Hall on Franklin—a full-service food hall that includes 200 seats in an 8,000-square-foot arena. Servers take your order which can include any of the items offered from the seven vendors.

It seems that this year is speeding by with the end of summer fast approaching. If you’ve been considering making some changes, remember the words of our past president, “The price of doing the same old thing is far higher than the price of change.”—Bill Clinton.


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