Automation and Takeout Take Over Industry Trends

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The takeout business has evolved quite a bit over the past 20 to 30 years – from drive-thru windows and phone-in orders to in-house delivery. Now, there are even vending machines that will make you a pizza. The world of apps and third-party courier services has produced rapid growth in the area of automation, and it’s just getting started. Online ordering is just one example of how automation is impacting the industry. It’s projected that restaurants that do not offer some form of online ordering/delivery service will lose over 70% of their customers by 2020 (you know, next year). Automation is the future of the restaurant industry – and it’s here. We can’t resist its inevitability, but it doesn’t have to be intimidating or overwhelming. We just need to embrace it and adapt.

It’s projected that restaurants that do not offer some form of online ordering/delivery service will lose over 70% of their customers by 2020 (you know, next year)

It is vital to remember is that as technology changes and automation increases, so do customer expectations. If it can be made, paid for, and delivered faster, then they will demand it happen that fast, or faster. If the numbers tell us anything, you are only as profitable as the expectations you can exceed. So, where should we focus our attention? As online ordering services soak up more and more of the market, they begin to demand more and more in commissions to sustain their automated endeavors (delivery drones aren’t cheap) – and just like in e-commerce, you start to see less and less name-brand, family-owned businesses, and more and more “Amazon”. The greatest tragedy that the restaurant industry is suffering is a loss of brand identity in the age of automation. Customers aren’t ordering from “Susie’s Diner” or “Mike’s BBQ Pit”; they’re ordering from GrubHub, Postmates, DoorDash, Caviar – you name it. The apps have slowly been eroding restaurants’ brand equity.

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Pizza will eventually just become pizza, which is why it's vital to preserve the narrative of your restaurant. Why do you make the food you make? What makes it different, special, unique? Consumers want convenience, but they also crave that connection. People do still value their local restaurants, but they need to be introduced to the story and the people behind those restaurants.

In this way, restaurateurs can’t allow their brand to be obscured by the automation ­– it needs to be enhanced by it. Branded online ordering is one solution to embracing automation while simultaneously keeping the restaurant's soul intact (and also your revenue). Because local restaurants make up the heart of a neighborhood.

As the online ordering and delivery expectations of your customers change, so must the processes you use to meet and exceed their expectations. Automation can be overwhelming – and though it is important to adapt, it’s just as important to adapt with strategy and purpose.  As automation increases, it’s essential to remember: there is no reason you have to sacrifice your brand and your profits to keep up with technology and industry trends.

About ChowNow: ChowNow powers an online food ordering system as part of CHECK® Business Tools. ChowNow allows customers to place orders directly from a restaurant's website, Facebook page, Instagram profile and custom-built mobile apps – commission-free. Learn more about ChowNow by visiting Online Ordering in CHECK Business Tools.