Eating Between the Lines

A rise in off-premise business models, omnichannel technology, and new industry players are setting the stage for the future of restaurants.

Off-Premise Business Models

Ghost kitchens

These off-site kitchen facilities are used to prepare and fulfill off-premise orders for both physical and virtual brands. They can be leveraged by new brands, help restaurants streamline operations, or allow a concept to more easily expand their footprint.

Reef Technologies testing autonomous robotic delivery in Miami, FL
MrBeast Burger

“Host” kitchens

Existing restaurants may leverage their underutilized kitchen space and staff to fulfill off-premise orders for both other (virtual and physical) brands. It’s a promising revenue model for many, as there is little-to-no upfront costs and no need for menu design, brand development, or marketing.

Omnichannel for Restaurants

Omnichannel ordering and delivery

The network of ordering platforms (direct or third-party), fulfillment methods (delivery, pickup), and in-store technology (kiosks, contactless payment) is ever-expanding and increasingly complex. As a result, it’s crucial for restaurants to keep track of where and how their customers are interacting with them — and make sure the experience is seamless and consistent no matter what.

Sociavore’s all-in-one platform helps restaurants strengthen their direct guest relationships.

Omnichannel marketing

Finding and attracting new customers across different channels can be elusive for operators. Technology partners like Bikky are creating robust and integrative tools to help restaurants collect, understand, and activate on their customer data, helping them attract and retain customers more effectively.

Crowded Competition

Grocery and Convenience

While grocery spending spiked early during the pandemic, grocers are seeing the importance of pivoting to address increasing customer demands of convenience and value. Some, like Albertsons, are doubling down on meal offerings in their stores, addressing needs of cooking-at-home-fatigued customers. Others, like Chicagoland Mariano’s, are making even bigger bets by launching experimental fresh markets that center around “easy, quick, fun, poised to go and get food” that competes directly with restaurants. 7-Eleven may be the most aggressive player in the space, aiming to launch 100 new store-restaurant-combo models in 2021 alone.

Rendering of the upcoming Dom’s Kitchen & Market in Chicago, IL

Meal Kits

According to Grandview Research, the meal kit delivery service market could reach nearly $27 billion by 2028. The growth is due partially to changes brought on during the pandemic, but was already expected to grow due to an increasing preference in homemade meals. Many in this market — whose offerings can be segmented in “heat and eat” or “cook and eat” — have been trying to differentiate themselves, for example by collaborating with celebrated chefs or offering diet-specific meals.

Factor creates ready-to-eat meals for different types of diets (keto, vegan, paleo and more)

New Food Entrepreneurs

With restaurants shutting down or going virtual during COVID, many enterprising chefs, operators, and tech companies have experimented and found success outside the conventional structure of a restaurant. Some have utilized social media to entice and sell directly to consumers; Chicago’s Professor Pizza has leveraged his following and expert reputation into a gangbusters “grandma-style” pizza pop-up on Tock.

Professor Pizza offers limited-edition “Extra Credit” specials that change weekly


As we’ve seen in this deep dive, new off-premise business models, omnichannel technology, and emerging “restaurant” players are gaining traction in this new wild west of foodservice. While some might fade as the pandemic wanes, we believe many of these experiments could be here to stay — altering our industry for years to come.

We’re a foodservice innovation hub exploring the future of the industry.

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