I have spent much of the last five summers compiling Eating Patterns in America, which is our annual ambitious task of summarizing the consumption behavior of an entire nation. As overwhelming a task it may seem, I actually appreciate the time to stop and contemplate all that has happened in the foodservice and food and beverage industries over the past year, and connect the dots between where we are now and where we’re headed.
The restaurant industry has settled into a new reality, and with that realization have come focus and innovation. Today the restaurant is not always the destination; sometimes it is simply the carrier. Carry-out, delivery, third-party services, and other innovations are taking the restaurant experience beyond the door, giving consumers the option to eat out on their own terms. How consumers access food is rapidly changing, alongside technological advancements and the growing expectation that people should be able to get whatever they want, whenever they want it.
The growth in digitally ordered carry-out foods is a good example of responding to the need to eat away from home on our own terms. There has been a lot of hype around delivery (not to mention investment in delivery), but carry-out occasions ordered digitally are growing faster than delivery occasions. The growth in carry-out digital orders is a clear indication of consumer demand, and it presents a larger whitespace opportunity. This is not to say that there isn’t demand of on premise dining, because there is. Eating out on our own terms includes the choice to eat on premise.
Carry-out is just one of several ways I’ve seen restaurant operators evolve and innovate to meet consumers’ changing needs. As I travel around the country meeting you, learning, listening, and observing, I like what I’m hearing and seeing. I feel the excitement and see that there is a realization that to win in today’s foodservice market requires creativity, innovation, and the courage to break down paradigms. I look forward to continuing my journey and wish you well on yours.