The National Restaurant Association’s Tech Predictions for 2021

The National Restaurant Association announced this month its forecasted trends for the industry in 2021. The trends largely represent a continued reliance on off-premises services and indicate that the association anticipates the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to exert a heavy influence over the industry throughout the next year.

Restaurant brands that haven’t already found their ideal technology partner must do so now, as industry trends and shifting consumer preference both indicate that omnichannel digital experiences are the future of hospitality.

“Technology that might have been ‘nice to have’ before the pandemic suddenly became ‘need to have’ to enable touchless transactions,” the association wrote in its prediction. “Many of the innovations deployed not only helped keep restaurants afloat in 2020, they also signal the trends shaping 2021.”

Here’s the technology the NRA expects to define the restaurant industry this year:

  1. Off-premises foodservice takes precedence

Pre-pandemic, 80% of FSRs’ traffic was on-premises, according to the association. Now, curbside pickup and delivery are the bread and butter of all service types, not just QSRs.

FSRs will need to invest in robust, customizable Order & Delivery solutions that will take the brand experience digital. The user experience is the most critical component of any online ordering platform.

  1. Meal subscriptions

This summer, Panera Bread made waves with its new subscription program. As one of the first restaurants to launch such a concept, it was a calculated gamble – and one that’s been paying off.

While Panera’s is the biggest name in the subscription game for now, the conditions are ripe for a domino effect. Not only has the fast casual chain’s program been a huge success in terms of revenue generation and customer acquisition, it’s also acted as a blueprint for how restaurants can draw guests in during the pandemic and capture a bigger share of their wallets.

This new business model is about to witness explosive growth. Not only is this the direction the market is trending, but Paytronix’ new technology solution enables restaurants to stand up a subscription program quickly and easily – and the interest it’s generated proves operators know it’s what their guests want.

  1. Selling groceries

Paytronix client Little Greek Fresh Grill used its versatile online ordering platform to launch a “community store” back in May, enabling its most vulnerable guests to safely access the staples they needed that were sold out at grocery stores.

Though grocery stores’ inventory has largely recovered, the ability to purchase grocery items at a restaurant provides an added convenience to guests. According to the NRA, more than half of consumers surveyed said they would buy groceries from a restaurant if they were offered.

  1. Alcohol-to-go

In the restaurant industry, where margins are razor thin even in the best of times, there is one product that always sells and is always profitable: alcohol.

Many brands began selling alcohol online during the pandemic as legal restrictions were eased, including Paytronix client Local Cantina. But in order to do so safely and effectively, restaurants need to be equipped with an Order & Delivery platform that enables ID checks.

Looking for more ways to up your Order & Delivery game? Check out our e-book 4 Restaurants on the Online Ordering Frontier to learn how brands like Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse pivoted during the pandemic to reach guests at home.  

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