Restaurant chains are rapidly evolving to meet customer demand for a more accessible, digital dining experience.

A few years ago, the average customer experience at a restaurant was likely vastly different than it would be today. As the world has adapted to a deal with a global pandemic, so have customer expectations for their favorite restaurant chains. Gone are the days of playdates at quick service restaurants with indoor playgrounds or camping out at local coffee shops for work meetings, replaced instead by order ahead mobile applications and quick pick-up kiosks. 

During the early days of the pandemic, customers were more forgiving of their favorite restaurants who were behind the curve of digital transformation. Those same customers have rapidly adapted since, and are now demanding more efficient and flexible dining options. In the past five years alone, digital ordering has grown a staggering 300% faster than dine-in traffic. Restaurant business is continuing to migrate toward online and mobile orders, and quick services stores will need to create their own applications in order to keep up with demand. In this article, we take a closer look at the customer journey and how restaurants may adapt using our Digital Roadmap for restaurant chains. 

Modernize the Restaurant

The restaurant of the future will be tailored to digital orders. Drive-thru lanes will increase, dining rooms will shrink, and transactions and interactions with associates will become automated. Restaurants will use order and location tracking to ensure freshness, deploy ‘ghost kitchens’ for delivery-only service models, and kiosks for quick and contactless ordering in stores. Chains who aim to meet the demand of customers looking for a more accessible experience will need to get creative in their quests to employ digital, contemporary dining options. 

Expand Digital Platforms

With the significant growth in online ordering, restaurant chains are now facing new demands around meal pick-up, digital payment, and maintaining service levels. Customers have become accustomed to online ordering and now require a seamless experience from ordering to pick-up or delivery. Restaurant chains will need to develop intuitive digital platforms with features that help ensure this experience, including smart search functions, order customization options, and mobile application payments. These tools can also be leveraged to help ensure orders are fulfilled accurately and quickly, and order and vehicle tracking capabilities will help customers receive top quality product and services. 

In the past five years alone, digital ordering has grown a staggering 300% faster than dine-in traffic.

Engage with Personalization

According to Salesforce, 66% of consumers expect the companies they interact with to understand their needs. Data-driven analytics and predictive modeling enable restaurants to create personalized loyalty programs, generating a channel for repeatable business. Personalized service helps make customers feel known, valued, and loyal to the brand. Successful chains drive engagement through the ability to customize food orders, provide special offers tailored to the individual, and entice customers with new items. Consistent personal engagement helps expand frequency of use and overall satisfaction for customers, and will be key for restaurants to effectively engaging with customers.

Shift to Digital Advertising

Television ads, paper coupons, and print media are largely a thing of the past. During this critical shift toward digital operations, restaurants have the opportunity to redefine the way they connect with customers using technical solutions. They can now track conversions from online visibility and advertising, allowing them to test and reinforce their messaging to yield higher engagement from their audience. Push notifications tempting customers to pick-up dinner for the family or third party ads boasting local restaurant chains while online shopping will become the norm in restaurant chain advertising. Social media will also be a major tool for bringing in new customers and creating an experience or product that the consumer craves.

Achieve Agility with Cloud

According to Gartner, cloud is expected to exceed 45% of all enterprise IT spending by 2026. Restaurant chains are leveraging this technology to scale IT operations and break free from the constraints of the data center structure. Cloud enables companies to deliver the dynamic applications with personalized analytics that consumers demand, and provides the technical capacity to triple online orders during times of unprecedented growth, for example. Companies are able to rapidly develop and deploy platforms and updates using cloud to keep their product at the forefront of their customers’ minds. Cloud will enable the restaurant of the future.


In summary, the restaurant industry is transforming digitally to meet shifting demand from its customers. As growth in online and mobile orders continues to climb, restaurant chains will increasingly harness innovative technologies to deliver a holistic, personalized dining experience. Implementing creative digital solutions will be key for restaurants to remain competitive during this critical shift.