E&S Extra

Editorial Director Joe Carbonara provides insights and commentary on the state of the foodservice equipment and supplies marketplace.


Of Convenience, Value and Efficiency

Consumers’ cravings for the convenience of off-premise dining show no signs of being satiated. If you’re looking for proof, here’s exhibit A: Off-premise consumption accounts for roughly 60 percent of all restaurant occasions, according to data from the National Restaurant Association.

The study shows 92 percent of consumers use drive-thrus at least once a month and 34 percent use delivery more than they did a year ago. Further, 79 percent of consumers use restaurant delivery at least once a month and 53 percent use third-party delivery at least once a month. It comes as no surprise that 78 percent of operators consider off-premise programs a strategic priority.

Looking at the surging popularity of off-premise consumption might lead one to wonder about the future of traditional restaurants as we know them. It’s a fair point to ponder, but restaurants as we know them will not disappear any time soon.

Moving forward, successful restaurants will thrive on their use of three main ingredients. The first, as the data above alludes to, is convenience. Value, defined on the customers’ terms, represents another key ingredient. If the customer does not value your product — regardless of how good it is — survival becomes even more challenging. Efficiency represents the final key ingredient. With food-away-from-home and labor prices regularly rising, it has become more important than ever for operators to make effective and efficient use of the resources at their disposal.

How operators apply these ingredients may vary significantly from one concept to the next.

Take, for example, The Florence. This concept leverages its dual kitchens to serve multiple dayparts and a burgeoning catering operation. The unique placement of the kitchens allows these spaces to function independently or together, which gives the restaurant’s management team some flexibility when deploying labor.

Big Star represents another concept rising to meet the dynamic challenges of the day. The concept got its start in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood, operating from a 120-seat location. Just last year Big Star opened its second location, this one a much larger two-story restaurant across from Chicago’s Wrigley Field. Staying true to its origins, Big Star’s Wrigleyville location features authentic menu items staff make on-premise, including tortillas and salsa. Understanding the importance of off-premise consumption, though, Big Star features a walk-up window that allows customers on foot to order food to go.

Value and efficiency come together at Mordecai, a restaurant and cocktail bar just down the street from Big Star’s second location. To help meet the demands that come with the large volumes of crowds that roll through the doors on game day at Wrigley Field and during other peak periods, the team at Mordecai developed a way to batch cocktails. Batching also helps Mordecai develop some unique flavor profiles on classic cocktails, such as the old fashioned. Blending one finger each of three different bourbons creates a smooth and inviting cocktail. (Having done the research, I can vouch for this specific drink).

Without a doubt, off-premise consumption will continue to shape the foodservice industry. But by emphasizing various forms of convenience, efficiency and value, traditional
operators will remain relevant, too.