Now that it’s possible to tap a smartphone and have heirloom tomatoes delivered within one hour for just $7.99 (less than the cost of a Lyft to Trader Joe’s and back), what will happen to us? Giants like Amazon have colonized us with convenience, making it so easy to accept speedy shipments of much-needed paper towels, baby wipes, fish, imported Spanish wine, that we’ve become convenience-happy, wanting instant gratification to issue from a finger touch. But when consumer convenience decides everything, industries must comply with rather high expectations. While there’s plenty of great reads on how convenience is shaping the lives of consumers, and the economy, not much has been written on how convenience is altering the nature of running a restaurant. (Restaurant owners be warned that convenience has a price.)
Restaurant owners are being spun around by the laws of this new, ultra-convenient universe. Today the restaurant isn’t merely the space between a building’s four walls, no: it can extend beyond. A restaurant “beyond” its four walls. A dining experience which transpires somewhere “off” physical premise. (Whoa.) It’s almost mind bending, like one of those dreams delivered to Neo in “The Matrix.” Only, it’s our reality now.
For some consumers, the smartphone is fast becoming a first-stop destination for gathering food. Convenience has gripped the nation, and the prospect of driving to a restaurant, parking, pointing to an item on a menu, waiting for it, and paying the bill, may soon feel antiquated. According to Eater and the Chicago Tribune, restaurant dining is starting to taper off, but off-premise dining (takeout, third-party delivery, and catering) is on the upswing. Restaurant owners need to keep pace with changes to the businesses if they want to survive.
“The biggest disrupter to our industry is convenience,” Jennifer Parker said last week at an event hosted by ezCater for the restaurant community called ezChats in Dallas. “Thank you, Amazon, for making everything come to my house.” Parker is the former Senior Director of Sales Strategy for Jamba Juice and now runs Impact Brands. She explained that in today’s digital landscape, restaurants are expected to integrate technology and orchestrate delivery services—in addition to all the things that go into running a restaurant. For small-scale operators, who work with tight budgets, this is colossal. “Everybody in service has raised the standard so much, and they expect all of us to be accessible and for everything to work perfectly,” she said.
The tide of changes is what inspired ezCater to launch a series of live panel discussions called ezChats, which explores issues impacting the restaurant community. ezChats gives restaurant owners a chance to arm themselves with insights, stories, resources, and community strength. Each panel discussion features a group of high-profile restaurant executives who discuss the changes to the restaurant industry and ways that restaurant owners can grow their businesses beyond their brick walls.
Last Thursday, ezChats stopped at Dallas’s luxurious D.E.C. on Dragon Street to explore a pitch-perfect theme: “Growing Your Restaurant’s Off-Premise Revenue.” The panel featured Michelle Matthews of Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, Jennifer Parker of Impact Brands, Rick Dobbyn of Café Izmir, and Jim Rand, Catering Practice Leader at ezCater.
The mission of the ezChats series is to organize and educate restaurant owners across the nation, who are often too busy with kitchen orders and micromanaging staff to share stories, insights, and business strategies with members of their community. This year the ezChats tour is scheduled to pop up in big cities across the nation.
If you missed out on ezChats Dallas, watch this video.
Learn more about bringing in new revenue in our age of convenience at the next ezChats near you