If you ask a restaurateur what he or she thinks is the biggest disrupter in the foodservice industry, they’ll probably tell you it’s the rise of third-party delivery, and the fast evolution of technology in both front- and back-of-the-house applications. Whether it’s used to improve order accuracy and streamline wait times, connect with customers, or meet the growing need for better off-premises service, technology is changing how we do business and keeping up is mandatory.

Several industry leaders, all members of the National Restaurant Association’s Fast Casual Industry Council and guests on our new Fast Casual Insider podcast, discussed what they consider industry disruptors and what they mean for operators. Here are some excerpts:

Don Fox, Firehouse Subs
“Consumers’ shift to off-premises dining is changing how we design and operate our restaurants. The more consumers shift away from using dining rooms, the more competitive the landscape becomes. Erosion of dine-in business is not the fault of the industry; we haven't caused the consumer to seek alternatives because of poor experiences. It’s outside factors, which largely involve customers’ increasing comfort with and dependence on technology and their expectations from it. How we adapt will largely determine the future relevance of restaurants.”

Kathleen Richardson, Urban Farmhouse Market & Café
“The evolution of technology will continue to change our industry. Many have cited a number of reasons why the ‘people’ aspect of our business could diminish, through automation, ghost kitchens, and self-service options, to name a few. But I think all of this could lend itself to an opportunity to create welcoming spaces that meet the need for human interaction.

Larry Reinstein, LJR Hospitality Ventures
“Whether it’s software or equipment, the technology you’re using today isn’t necessarily what you’re going to use a year or two from now. Regarding software, the data you need to enhance everything – from loyalty to guest engagement – is always evolving. The question is, what data is most important to your brand and how do you find the fewest number of software solutions that provide that information in an easily accessible format?”

Paul Damico, Naf Naf Middle Eastern Grill
“Third-party delivery is the biggest disrupter, and right behind that is the invention of ghost kitchens, or virtual kitchens. Just when you thought our industry could not possibly open any more restaurants, someone invents the concept of a ghost kitchen. Now, in a space of about 15,000 square feet, you can have 19 delivery-only restaurants operating under one roof. We all share the same customer base, and it is becoming harder to keep those loyal customers because of the massive variety they now have.”

If you want to hear more insights about our industry and the trends in the fast-casual sector, download our Fast Casual Insider podcast today.