Over the past few months, delivery and takeout have become a lifeline for restaurants across the globe. While the COVID-19 pandemic is the toughest challenge the industry may have ever had to face, it does illustrate the remarkable resilience of restaurants, who are shifting their entire business model overnight, doing whatever they can to adapt to the crisis.

Food delivery was booming business before we were hit by the coronavirus. And now more than ever, swift, convenient and efficient online ordering options have become the norm. After this is all over, some of those new habits will remain and change the way we’ve been approaching delivery all together. Here’s what the landscape may look like in the future.


Delivery and takeaway are here to stay

Whereas this statement was undeniably true before the crisis, it now looks like off-premises dining will be even bigger once things go back to normal. But what will the new normal look like? Recent consumer surveys show that 67% of US consumers will be very cautious about dining in a restaurant once they reopen, and 12% claim they may never go back to dining in at all. 

Contactless food deliveryOne thing is certain: even when restaurants are allowed to finally reopen, they will still have to respect social distancing for the unforeseeable future - reducing their in-house covers considerably. Off-premises dining, like delivery, takeaway and curbside pickup, can fill this gap and remain an additional source of revenue for restaurants, even after measures have been lifted. 

A recent CGA study in the UK shows that of those who ordered delivery for the first time, or more often than usual, 60% said they would continue their frequency of ordering delivery from restaurants, or takeaways (70%). More than a third (37%) also claimed they were likely to order delivery from pubs and bars in the future, if available.


Family meals and meal kits

Many restaurants have taken up family-size meals in order to meet current demands, while others offer entire meal kits. Both options are cost-effective for families that have to feed four or five people, and want to enjoy a restaurant-quality meal together. 

Family meal with takeout sushiXXL-size meals could consist of several courses to share, like a few starters, main dishes with sides, beverages and dessert, but you may also want to consider family-size main dishes on their own (such as pasta and sauce in large quantities). 

Meal kits, on the other hand, are a fun way to get the family together to recreate one of their favorite dishes from your restaurant. They’re also a good opportunity to show your brand’s personality, by including clear but fun instructions along with the ingredients to prepare the meal.


Desserts and side dishes

2020 food trends predicted a rise in the popularity of desserts and sides, both in-house and for deliveries, and it appears that life in lockdown has sped up this trend. Third-party delivery player Just Eat revealed Britain’s quarantine cravings a few weeks ago, and reported a 36% rise in dessert orders. Sides have been ordered more than usual, as well. People want to treat themselves to some of their favorites while they’re stuck at home, and they will probably continue to appreciate these little pleasures in life after the lockdown is over.

Dessert in a takeaway container


Wholesale ingredients and grocery delivery

Supermarkets, corner and convenience stores and other food retailers were already starting to enter the delivery marketplace, a trend which seems to be really taking off in the current climate of crisis. It makes perfect sense: people want to stay indoors and have their meals, but their groceries as well, delivered straight to their doorstep. So more and more restaurants are selling their ingredients in bulk, solving their surplus inventory issues at the same time.

A significant percentage of local businesses like butchers and bakers have also started delivering their products - and why stop once the pandemic is under control? Today’s consumer wants convenience more than anything else, a need that will definitely not change in the wake of the coronavirus. By offering delivery (or pick-up), food retailers are giving the consumer what they want, while at the same time opening up an additional sales channel.


Touchless customer service experience

Awareness of health, sanitation and food safety will be even more important than before, both for restaurant operators and its employees, and customers. That’s why it’s highly probable that contactless transactions are here to stay, as well.

Woman ordering food from self-service kioskBusinesses in all industries will have to upgrade technology to provide customers with contactless payment options, as well as no-contact delivery options. In terms of self-service kiosks, that means you’ll have to make sure to wipe them clean with alcohol between customers, so they are immediately put at ease. 

While kiosks are a good option to avoid handling cash and human contact alike, people are going to be very cautious about touching screens to order their meal. If they’re not sure that proper hygiene precautions have been taken, they’ll probably prefer ordering from an actual person (by phone) or using their own mobile devices… which brings us to the next likely shift in delivery: mobile-ordering technology.


Mobile-ordering technology

Mobile-ordering technology will become the new standard for the restaurant industry. Combining the need for convenience with safety and health concerns, mobile apps and online ordering websites will continue to do well. Restaurants will have to commit to online ordering, whether through their own website or app, or a third party like Uber Eats, Deliveroo, Glovo, Doordash, etc. 

Regardless of whether restaurants tackle delivery and takeaway on their own or with the help of a third-party delivery service provider, they’ll have to streamline their operations so they can handle these new types of orders in the best possible way.


Ghost kitchens

Chef preparing noodles to go

While ghost kitchens - or dark kitchens - are not a priority for restaurants right now, they will be as the demand for delivery keeps on growing. Ghost kitchens are delivery-only industrial kitchens; restaurants without a storefront. The ghost kitchen business model helps restaurants reduce operational costs, test new concepts and audiences, and create virtual brands in a low-risk way. 

Dark kitchens enable existing restaurants to outsource all food delivery related aspects to centralized locations, where all delivery services can be scaled across numerous brands. Being able to operate without a brick-and-mortar location gives restaurants more wiggle room, even in times like these, and can also help them scale their business more quickly.


Local products and community support

Throughout this ordeal, people have been wondering how to best support local communities and businesses, and it’s very likely that this sense of community isn’t going anywhere in the future. Consumers were already leaning towards locally sourced food and sustainable, organic sources. Seeing their local restaurants struggle for survival will only enhance this feeling of wanting to buy sustainably and support their favorite businesses at the same time. 

Karolien Odou
May 13, 2020 by Karolien Odou

Content marketer at Deliverect and fulltime carnivore