Take the Grub and Run

Karen Robinson-Jacos and Laurie Joseph
Copyright 2015 The Dallas Morning News. All Rights Reserved.

Between killer work schedules, soccer games and sagging skill levels, many adults don’t have the inclination to prepare a three-course meal, or the time to sit in a restaurant and enjoy one. That helps account for the growth in “off-premise” dining, where a restaurant chef does the cooking and you enjoy the meal in front of your TV. Now technology, including apps that allow hungry consumers to order and pay in advance, is expected to make restaurant dining rooms even emptier.

Fiesta Restaurant Group

Addison-based Fiesta Restaurant Group, which operates the fast-casual chains Taco Cabana and Pollo Tropical, hopes to double its current off-premise business over the next 10 years and has hired its first corporate director of off-premise consumption. The new director, Willie Romeo, will focus on to-go, online ordering, catering, drive-through and mobile app orders.

Corner Bakery Café

Off-premise sales** at Dallas-based Corner Bakery Café have been growing about a percentage point a year. Next year, the 24-year-old company hopes to begin testing its first drive-through lane.

Mooyah Burgers

Plano-based Mooyah, which competes in the “better burger” space, is looking to boost its to-go business. The company has opened two locations with drive-through lanes but is not focusing on that model.

Essential takeout

More than a third of working-age adults consider buying to-go food “essential” to the way they live, according to the National Restaurant Association.

Deliveries on the rise

At fast-food restaurants, more than 70% of the orders are eaten off-site. Figures from the NPD Group show that delivery orders, which account for the smallest segment, saw the largest percentage growth rate for the year that ended in June.

There’s an app for that

Restaurant chains including Plano-based Pizza Hut and its corporate cousin Taco Bell, along with Starbucks, Subway and others have rolled out apps that allow you to order, pay ahead of time, and just pick the food up on the fly. Look for more chains to launch their own apps or to partner with players like http://www.orderaheadapp.com (not available yet in North Texas) or MasterCard’s Qkr.

The bottom line

“The biggest thrust for operators has been in the catering area to promote off-premise sales opportunities. Most of the growth in takeout has been in independent restaurants that have changed their business model to accommodate takeout opportunities for their customers. Also, there have been a lot of delivery discussions from brands such as Uber and Postmates.”

Darren Tristano, executive vice president, Technomic restaurant research service

“We are seeing that currently on-premise visits are growing while off-premise is holding steady or declining. That partly has to do with generational differences. Millennials are cutting back on restaurant visits. They were more inclined to use off premise. Baby boomers are now heavier restaurant users and they have a tendency to eat on premise.”

Bonnie Riggs, restaurant industry analyst, NPD Group

“‘What’s for dinner, Mom?’ was sometimes the scariest question I heard all day. With healthier restaurant options and technology that helps meal-pickup-time fit your schedule, restaurants can grow revenue and reduce the strain on the dining room during peak periods.”

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