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Exploring new spaces and blurring traditional restaurant lines; BurgerFi’s consumer tech and hybrid food halls, Smokey Bones’s casual drive-thru, and TitTok’s virtual dining – investing in growth

The past several years have shaken every industry, challenged all imaginable processes, exposed all hidden weaknesses – especially in the hospitality and food-and-beverage space. What we’re seeing today was only a matter of time before we would find restaurants in a similar predicament – pandemic or not.

Now, restaurants have no other option but to adapt or join the graves of those who did not.

Chaos wreaks havoc.

But chaos also creates opportunities.

Those that are weathering the storm are finding themselves glaring at paper napkins; rewriting rules of the industry. 

The times are nothing short of exciting!


BurgerFi Leads with Innovation and Creativity

BurgerFi, is among the nation’s fastest-growing better burger concepts with 116 BurgerFi restaurants domestically and internationally including 23 corporate-owned restaurants and 93 franchised restaurants, in addition to 24 ghost kitchens as of September 30, 2021. The concept has seen tremendously healthy growth. Now a publicly traded company has felt the impact of the pandemic, especially with labor shortages.

In a recent press release, BurgerFi announced its initiative to re-evaluate the customer experience by “testing and expanding five new technologies and creative strategies to stay ahead of evolving consumer preferences and combat widespread labor shortages that have plagued the restaurant industry since the onset of the pandemic.”

“While the entire restaurant industry faces macro headwinds, BurgerFi is determined to be resilient and forward-thinking,” said Karl Goodhew, Chief Technology Officer at BurgerFi. “Leveraging technology is a key factor in delivering guest and employee happiness.”

Part of the forward-thinking, the restaurant chain will be the very first to integrate into in-car ordering technologies in vehicles starting mid 2022. “Through a partnership with Mavi.io—an in-car retail marketplace that brings safe, easy, curated shopping to the dashboard of consumers’ favorite cars”. The restaurant will be notified as the vehicle gets closer, ensuring the pickup transaction is seamless.

According  to a statement from Mavi.io’s CEO and co-founder Cynthia Hollen, “Mavi.io’s in-car retail marketplace is driving OnMyWay CommerceTM by doing all the work when drivers need to pick up something while on the road—whether that’s a meal, a phone charger, a coffee or a few groceries—so they can make the most of every trip,” continues Hollen, “[a] driver can just tell their car that they’re hungry, for example, and the technology does the rest, identifying the best location for them to order from based on their destination, helping them order and pay, and timing their curbside pickup perfectly, so their meal is fresh and ready right when they swing by.”

Additionally, BurgerFi will experiment with in-restaurant robotis to assist with routine on-site customer service, ordering technologies, and hybrid food halls – in a commuted effort to place technology and innovation central in creating an integrated customer experience.


Smokey Bones’ Drive-Thru

A growing and surprisingly promising  opportunity is quickly emerging for full-service and casual-dining restaurants. Following the pandemic, off-premises sales are gaining a significant share of total sales. In fact, the Cheesecake Factory brings in approximately $60,000 additionally in off-premises sales – per location, per week! According to Cheesecake, nearly 70% of the off-premises regulars are new customers. A phenomena quick-service restaurants are not seeing.

Smokey Bones CEO James O’Reilly the industry is seeing massive shifts in off-premises and the on-premises dynamic. “And not only are more people engaging with the casual-dining brands off-premises than ever before, the on-premises customer even thinks of their experience being a little bit different,” he says. “A little bit more special, which underpins how consumers are spending in on-premises occasions. But all of this led us to ask, how do we support that and keep growing the company and growing the value and becoming more relevant to consumers?”

The solution: a full-scale, quick-service style, in function, drive-thru system on one of its restaurants. “With a view to it becoming a part of how we do business going forward,” O’Reilly says.

To deliver speed and allow the drive-thru to function properly, the restaurant will prioritize convenience, freshness and favorites. “We want guests to be able to order many, many of the menu items that they can get very, very quickly,” said O’Reilly. “Like sandwich combos and wing combs and things like that. And if the guest wants to order a family meal or something that might take a few minutes longer, we’ll have designated spots where they can wait for their order to be brought up to them.”

Additionally, the drive-thru will also allow Smokey Bones to showcase and sell their virtual brands – quick-service concepts the company has been developing.


TikTok Tackling Virtual Dining, 1,000 Virtual Restaurants Expected!

It makes total sense! The dining service, TitTok Kitchen, in partnership with Virtual Dining Concepts will make foodie trends a reality; a delivery-only experience across the county. That’s 1,000 expected locations by the end of 2022. The menu will be solely based on viral food trends, and is planned to change quarterly.

Virtual Dining Concepts is most notably known for fueling MrBeast Burger, which now has 1,500 locations in the USA, Canada and UK.



Quick and Easy | Do-it-today Takeaways

  • Experiment with everything; operations, front-of-house, back-of-house, marketing, menu engineering, simplification of menu, technology, ordering and fulfillment. Nothing is off limits
  • Question every process and evaluate every system
  • Ask a lot of ‘why’ questions – “Why are we doing it like this”

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The psychology of emotional menu item descriptions is a powerful tool for restaurants looking to create a more compelling and memorable dining experience. By incorporating emotional language, storytelling, sensory language, and authenticity into their menu descriptions, restaurants can engage diners on a deeper level and create a connection that goes beyond mere words on a page.

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