To put it mildly, delivery and takeout aren’t coming off the menu anytime soon. Even prior to state mandates that restaurants close their dining rooms to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, a majority of restaurant occasions (60%) were taking place outside of eateries’ four walls, according to a study released last year by the National Restaurant Association and Technomic.
The report, titled “Harnessing Technology to Drive Off-Premises Sales,” found that 92% of consumers were using a restaurant drive-thru at least monthly, and 79% used restaurant delivery that frequently. In addition, 34% of consumers said they were using delivery more often than two years ago.
To address that change, a number of restaurant chains have developed brick-and-mortar units specifically devoted to off-premise sales.
P.F. Chang’s has opened the prototype of its new expansion concept, P.F. Chang’s To Go, a scaled-down venture offering only takeout and delivered meals. The first store, a 2,000-square-foot outlet in the River North section of Chicago, was the first of three units scheduled to open in the Windy City this year. The parent chain said it is also developing branches in New York City, Long Island and Washington, D.C.
The To Go concept will feature a pared-down version of the menu offered in full-service P.F. Chang’s restaurants, which are formally called P.F. Chang’s Bistros. Though P.F. Chang’s is the latest casual-dining chain to open scaled-down units with limited service and an emphasis on takeout and delivery, Outback Steakhouse broke ground in December on a third unit of Aussie Grill by Outback, the first in the venture to feature a drive-thru. In addition, an Applebee’s franchisee has opened a scaled-down riff called Applebee’s Express, and Texas Roadhouse said it will step up expansion this year of a fast casual called Jaggers.
In November, the University of Wisconsin became the biggest college campus in the U.S. to roll out robot delivery. In partnership with Starship Technologies, the Madison, Wis., university brought on 30 robots. “Between the students wanting [autonomous delivery] and expecting it … [and our] hoping it’ll open up some seats in our facilities, it’s kind of a perfect storm of opportunity,” Peter Testory, director of dining and culinary services for the Division of University Housing, told FSD last year.