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3 restaurant operations trends for 2019 Ron Ruggless

3 restaurant operations trends for 2019

NRN's veteran editors present their top predictions for the industry

Restaurants will redesign for off-premise business

The coming year will see more designers cleverly and seamlessly drawing well-thought-out areas into restaurants to provide for to-go and delivery orders.

Some forward-thinking operators are already designing those areas into their units. San Diego-based Luna Grill Restaurants LLC, which has 48 fast-casual units in California and Texas, offers attractive wall shelving near the counter and the kitchen to accommodate dozens of orders for pick-up or delivery couriers.

Nicole Bushnell, Luna Grill’s vice president of marketing, said, “Online ordering and third-party delivery services have become an important part of the industry.

“We want each guest, whether just picking up, ordering to-go at the counter or dining in our restaurant, to have a smooth and welcoming experience.” 

Bushnell said the process of incorporating the to-go holding areas began early, yielding an area that doesn’t look added on.

“We started by looking at how all of these services were changing the traffic flow in our restaurants during peak hours,” Bushnell said. “The shelving for pick-up matches our overall design aesthetic and organizes orders more efficiently. Online and third-party delivery pick-ups can get in and out quickly without impacting other guest touch points.”

— Ron Ruggless, senior editor 

Benefits will get more holistic

A growing number of companies are embracing the fact that employees aren’t just employees. They’re human beings. Human beings who have babies, aging parents, sick kids, stress, health issues or perhaps even troubled pasts they’re trying to leave behind.

Amid a U.S. unemployment rate below 4 percent and chronic sky-high industry turnover, creative benefits will emerge as a key differentiator in the battle to get and keep talent, particularly younger workers.


A few restaurant companies are already making moves.

This fall, Starbucks said it would offer all employees access to backup child care and elder care in a partnership with And Noodles & Company this year added a “phase-in, phase out” aspect to its maternity leave policy that allows mothers to work 80-percent time at 100-percent pay for a few weeks before and after their leave.

Even smaller restaurant companies that may not be able to fund health care or paid leave programs are supporting employees’ physical and emotional well-being with flexible scheduling, chiropractic services, group fitness classes, financial education and, in more extreme cases, by helping to pay for drug rehabilitation.

Noodles & Company

As Tender Greens co-founder Erik Oberholtzer told NRN earlier this year: “It’s all about care, creating an environment, both internally and externally, that’s heartfelt. What that does is create an environment where people feel a bit more whole.”

Expect to see more companies coming up with creative ways to support employees — and all their complicated humanness — in the future.

— Christi Ravneberg, senior managing editor

Dads will get their own changing tables

Millennials are having children. And they’re expecting restaurants to be welcoming to their offspring and their parenting styles. They’re not afraid to take to social media to demand the changes they want to see in restaurants, either.

High chairs must be at the ready. Kids’ menus should go beyond chicken fingers. And access to changing tables for all patrons will soon be standard.

In August, a Canadian dad expressed outrage on Twitter when he found his local Tim Hortons didn’t have a changing station in the men’s room. The next month, a photo of a dad awkwardly changing his child’s diaper while squatting in a restroom went viral with the hashtag #squatforchange.

— Gloria Dawson, senior editor 

Read more:
3 restaurant tech predictions for 2019
6 food trend predictions for 2019
5 culinary predictions from industry experts
16 predictions for the restaurant industry in 2019

TAGS: Workforce
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