5 Agile brands that have transformed the restaurant experience for a post-pandemic world
Last week, Chatmeter released its latest Local Brand Report: The Top Restaurant Brands of 2021. In this report, we took a deep dive into the customer experience by analyzing thousands of online reviews. Those reviews shared how the customer experience is changing. Terms like “curbside pickup” that didn’t exist five years ago are now some of the most positively mentioned topics among customers.
This got us thinking…
What are some of the ways restaurant brands are transforming the customer experience for a post-pandemic world? Which is how we came to this list of five unique brands driving innovation in the restaurant industry.
Ghost Kitchens (JM)
The Absolute Brands
In response to mandatory closures of restaurants caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic, Dog Haus launched The Absolute Brands, a virtual kitchen concept comprised of Dog Haus and a few other fun restaurant brands. Starting with four brands in March of 2020, The Absolute Brands has found success with ghost kitchens and has since launched three more brands for a total of 7 unique offerings:
- Dog Haus
- Bad-ass Breakfast Burritos
- Bad Mutha Clucka
- Plant B
- Huevos Dias
- Big Belly Burgers
Will ghost kitchens last?
Dog Haus wasn’t the only brand to join the ghost kitchen trend, brands like Chuck E. Cheese, Fazoli’s, even Chili’s have opened ghost kitchens during the pandemic. The ghost kitchen concept has proven to benefit both large brands with kitchen space to spare and smaller brands looking for ways to cut down on overhead costs.
With the rise of delivery apps like Grubhub, DoorDash, UberEats, and more, many consumers don’t know their ordering from a restaurant without a dining room or even a sign.
Does that stuff even matter anymore? If you can get great-tasting food delivered to your door, who cares if it came from a traditional kitchen or a ghost kitchen?
Rethinking the Dining Room
Does a restaurant really need a dining room? Ghost kitchens aren’t the only way to put this theory to the test, Freddy’s Frozen Custard started building their newest location designed around the to-go experience.
Their new prototype features a drive-thru, curbside pick-up lanes, walk-up windows, and an outdoor patio. All things that became popular during the pandemic but aren’t necessarily new ideas… think Sonic without the carhops. With plans to build 45 more locations this year, we could be seeing a lot more restaurants without traditional dining rooms.
Pushing the Limits of Fast Food
I never thought I’d say this but what if fast food was faster? It seems as though Burger King has been pondering this idea since the start of the pandemic. Their latest restaurant concept is designed for the modern fast-food consumer and will appear in Miami later this year. The revolutionary design boasts three drive-thru lanes, curbside parking spots, pickup lockers for mobile orders or delivery, an outdoor patio, walk-up window, and a suspended dining room and kitchen to optimize for touchless delivery via conveyor belt. All that in a 60% smaller footprint than most Burger King restaurants now.
This concept definitely sounds like something from the future. It really takes into consideration every type of dining experience a customer may have at their location.
Eleven Madison Park
One positive aspect of the pandemic is that it gave brands the courage to take new risks. Chef Daniel Humm of fine-dining restaurant Eleven Madison Park to risk in May when he announced the reopening of his restaurant with a full vegan menu.
Vegan and other sustainable options have become more prevalent in restaurants within the past several years, but at a $300+ price tag, this feels different. Humm’s ability to create a sustainable fine-dining experience with a waiting list of over 15,000 people is certainly a concept any restaurant owner can get behind.
Meat shortages due to COVID-19, cyber attacks, and various other reasons have led restaurant brands to rethink their menu. This may spark even more restaurants to switch their menu to more sustainable options.
People, Planet, and Purpose
One brand is already off to the races in creating sustainable, accessible, and quality food. Project Pollo, a vegan restaurant serving up classic chicken sandwiches, fries, and more, started as a food truck for a local brewery during the pandemic. Now they’ve grown to six restaurants with plans to reach 100 by 2024.
What’s so special about Project Pollo? They don’t just talk the talk when it comes to saving the planet. Their packaging is compostable, food is affordable, and employees are paid double minimum wage and earn benefits. Project Pollo is building a restaurant brand for the next generation of consumers. They’re going to be one to watch.
The customer experience is constantly evolving and the restaurant brands mentioned above had the agility and creativity to adapt to changing expectations. Not only are the above brands paving the way for new experiences, but they’re redefining consumer expectations across every industry. Creating an agile brand takes more than just ingenuity it requires a deep understanding of the customer, their journey, and their ever-evolving wants and needs.
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