We all know the story of the hospitality industry over the past two years: once-thriving restaurants, bars and cafes — businesses that punched above their weight on the global scene — were forced to shut their doors and fought to survive. But among the chaos, and in true Aussie fashion, we also saw the resilient and innovative best of the industry. This transformation is marked by a tremendous shift: restaurant owners turned to technology to ensure survival — and in many cases, to find better ways to build and safeguard their future.
To understand the trends helping the industry’s evolution and to hear how restaurants are responding to changing consumer demands so far in 2022, we worked with YouGov to survey more than 500 restaurateurs and 1000 diners across Australia and developed Square’s first Australian Future of Restaurants report.
Here’s what we found.
Being online is more than takeaway
With dining rooms shut, many restaurants opened their digital doors for the first time, offering takeaway or finish-at-home options. This year, almost all the restaurateurs we spoke to (97%) will continue to offer online options introduced during the pandemic, with takeaway and delivery from third-party apps being the services most likely to stay, and many building websites specifically to take takeaway orders directly.
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But more than just ordering, restaurants also looked online to build completely new revenue streams. During the pandemic, more than one-in-five restaurants surveyed (22%) began selling retail items to supplement their service revenue. That could be selling merch like at Fishbowl, selling pre-made hampers, or just selling your raw produce.
Michael Bascetta, owner of Madewell Group which runs Capitano, Falco Bakery and Bar Liberty in Melbourne, summed it up best: “A retail revenue stream within restaurants is the future. Offering a product alongside a service is scalable and helps restaurants reach a broader audience.”
Automation will help remedy staff shortages
With many restaurants in Australia facing staff shortages, more than half are turning to automation tools to help them do more with less, with 55% of those surveyed already investing in kitchen automation.
Ordering is an area ripe for automation. Point of sale technologies — like mobile apps, QR codes and registers — are gaining popularity as they streamline orders from multiple sources and help teams save time and reduce risk of human error.
Beyond ordering, restaurant owners are looking to tools such as marketing automation to help attract new customers or reward loyal diners, and POS-integrated inventory systems that automatically make new orders before stock runs out.
As staff shortages persist, it’s imperative that restaurant owners lean into automation technology to reduce the burden on their staff and focus on what’s most important to a restaurant: service.
Taking supply into your own hands
Supply chain disruptions impacted almost every restaurant we spoke to (96%), and while food wholesalers and suppliers were hit hardest during the height of the pandemic, many issues remain. The hardest hit restaurants are those that import their produce internationally.
Rather than wait for international supply chains to resolve, many restaurants (71%) have sourced or plan to source produce directly from local Aussie suppliers instead. In even more extreme cases, we’ve seen the beginnings of a trend toward restaurants growing their own produce. Though this approach isn’t always practical, more restaurants may start to embrace it in uncertain and demanding times.
Though restaurant operators can’t control the entire supply chain, there are lessons to take from the past two years that can help the industry remain resourceful for future challenges. Maintaining relationships with trusted suppliers has never been more important, and the need for waste reduction can help reduce supply chain demand.
The restaurant of the future
For Australia’s hospitality industry, the pandemic caused a rapid move away from business as usual and into new operating territory. The industry is still rebuilding itself, working to meet customer expectations and seeking new growth opportunities. Our report shows that restaurants can use technology to their advantage, helping owners take risks and find new ways to make profits.
By investing in automation, omnichannel solutions and data, restaurateurs can prepare for future challenges while creating a more resilient and efficient business.