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Nearly nine out of ten restaurant owners say they are experiencing a labour shortage and that automated tools and integrated apps can be a part of the solution.Supplied

As the post-pandemic world takes shape, many restaurant owners are out of survival mode and thinking about long-term strategies to future-proof their businesses. From fine dining to fast food, from new payment options to a continued emphasis on delivery, the restaurant industry is building experiences for an ever-evolving future. Today’s savvy business owners are meeting customers where they are, embracing technological advances, and building loyal communities of fans across channels.

To understand where the future of the restaurant industry is headed, Square, a technology company providing omnichannel solutions to businesses, developed the Future of Restaurants report. In partnership with Wakefield Research, Square surveyed 500 restaurateurs and 1,000 consumers, and gathered insights from successful Square sellers and leading industry experts.

Restaurant owners shared what the future looks like from their vantage point, as the people witnessing firsthand how the industry is changing are the ones innovating to make it even better. The report explores what restaurateurs care about today and tomorrow, along with the cutting-edge tools and strategies that are helping them get there.

What is the future of restaurants?

A website isn’t just an ordering hub – it’s a representation of what a restaurant is and the faces behind the business. Curbside pickup isn’t just for convenience; it’s for the families that don’t have time to stop for a sit-down meal. QR codes aren’t just for contactless ordering; they’re for understanding customers and giving staff more room to focus on hospitality.

The biggest challenges facing the restaurant industry have propelled food businesses to think in new ways. More than half of Canadian restaurants made business investments in 2021 as a result of the economic impacts of the pandemic.

While 2021 was about adding as many new channels as possible, 2022 is about making those channels work together to create a streamlined, omnichannel restaurant – all through the lens of the customer’s ideal experience. New restaurant technology is the key to unlocking this future. More than half of restaurant owners (56 per cent) believe automation would fill critical gaps in managing online orders.

Technology can also help solve new challenges. Nearly nine out of ten restaurant owners say they are experiencing a labour shortage and that automated tools and integrated apps can be a part of the solution. Restaurants have adapted by changing business models, investing in omnichannel solutions, modernizing kitchen automation, and evolving to meet the needs of their business and their customers.

How will the future of food and dining change?

People care deeply about food, and restaurants are helping them take that passion even further. Restaurant owners are engaging with customers in new ways, from hosting online cooking classes and virtual tastings to offering subscriptions and memberships. And 95 per cent plan to do more community engagement initiatives this year to make that connection even stronger.

It used to be that experiencing the joy of eating from a restaurant meant ordering and dining in person. Today, restaurants are taking a different approach to ensure that no matter where customers are, they can still experience their cuisine. Diners are on the same page, with 78 per cent saying they prefer to order through online kiosks rather than through staff (for at least some types of restaurants), and 70 per cent saying they choose digital menus over physical ones at least some of the time.

Restaurants are also shifting away from the idea of exclusivity. Where it was once the norm in cities to wait months for a reservation or to line up around the block for brunch, restaurants of the future are providing more options, such as takeout, order ahead, and prepackaged meal kits, to make room for everyone.

“We see the time of the dine-in only or takeout only as largely done forever,” states Bryan Solar, GM of Square for Restaurants. “In the future, we expect restaurants’ physical footprints to evolve as they see an increase in the percentage of their revenue that comes from off-premise sales. Kitchen sizes could potentially take up more of the overall space and online ordering would become critical to a restaurant’s bottom line.”

What will new technology in restaurants look like?

As restaurants have added more channels, they’ve introduced new technology and restaurant management tools to make the transition from on-premise to off-premise dining entirely frictionless.

With more orders coming in online and in person, restaurants are prioritizing their back-of-house management tools to ensure a frictionless front-of-house experience. In fact, 99 per cent of restaurant owners agree increased automation would allow their staff to focus on more important tasks.

Restaurants are also connecting with their customers across channels. From social selling to marketing, technology tools are helping restaurateurs reach both new and old customers. Omnichannel tools such as kitchen display systems, inventory management, and customer insights are invaluable as restaurants move toward a more modern future.

For more restaurant insights and trends, download the full Future of Restaurants report.

Advertising feature provided by Square. The Globe and Mail’s editorial department was not involved.