Takeout Is Changing the Restaurant Business

Is the the new normal when it comes to getting dinner?. (Photo: David MG/Shutterstock)

My 16-year-old recently attempted to have a candy bar delivered to our house in the middle of the night. He tried to use an app that delivers "munchies," "dranks" and "eaaats," but for various reasons, he couldn't make it happen.

I won't go into the mom-lecture I gave about why he shouldn't have anything delivered to our house in the middle of the night. I'll skip that part and focus on another aspect of this situation: for him and his friends, having one over-priced candy bar delivered by someone at 3 a.m. — and paying a delivery fee and a tip to the driver — isn't a crazy idea. They, and young adults 10 to 15 years older, have lived in a world where all they have to do is spend a minute on a smartphone and within 30 minutes in many cases, what they want will arrive at their doorstep.

That same son works at an Italian restaurant-pizza place that has a small dining room and a huge take-out business, but no delivery. His older brother works as a delivery driver for another local restaurant. Despite my focus on home cooked meals and family dinner when they were younger, my boys have fully embraced the culture of take-out meals, both as a way for them to eat and a way to earn money.

People are choosing takeout and delivery over home cooked and sit-down restaurant meals more often, and it's forcing restaurants of all kinds to change the way they do business.

If you've noticed that some of your favorite casual restaurants seem not as crowded lately, it's not necessarily that they're less busy. It could be that more people are choosing to take their food to go — either by picking it up or having it delivered by a service like Uber Eats — rather than dining in.

Just a few years ago, restaurants were designing their spaces to meet the needs of millennials — adding USB ports and putting in communal tables. Now, some restaurants are removing tables to make space for a rapidly growing take-out business, according to Bloomberg.

While existing restaurants are losing tables for take-out space, new restaurants are creating less space from the start. With fewer people dining in, chain restaurants are leasing smaller spaces, knowing a lot of their business will be from takeout.

Why the rise in takeout?

uber eats
Dinner and a movie used to mean a night out; now it means delivery and Netflix. (Photo: Andrea Delbo/Shutterstock)

What's causing the boom in takeout? One of the reasons is ease of ordering. There are 380 percent more food delivery apps than there were three years ago. It's predicted that delivery sales from restaurants will rise 12 percent each year for the next four years. Apps such as GrubHub, Uber Eats, DoorDash and even Go Puff (the app that will deliver "dranks" and such) make ordering food incredibly easy, and they'll often deliver food from more than one restaurant or location, giving people more choices.

The younger generation, the millennials who now have the most spending power are choosing takeout or delivery more often than older generations. (And please note, I'm not blaming millennials for killing dine-in restaurants.) USA Today reports that in a three-month period in 2018, 77 percent of millennials ordered food delivery compared to 51 percent of all U.S. diners. During that same time, millennials used third-party food delivery services such as GrubHub or Uber Eats 44 percent of the time, while overall third-party services were used 20 percent of the time.

Food delivery services are expanding their service areas, too. According to Eater, Uber Eats now serves 70 percent of the United States and is focusing on getting into smaller cities and suburbs. The delivery service is also leveraging the data it collects, determining what people want the most and creating virtual restaurants inside the kitchens of already established restaurants. In Dallas, a small sushi chain called SushiYaa also makes food in its kitchens for Uber Eats' virtual restaurants that have names like Bento Box and Poke Station. You won't find Bento Box and Poke Station delivery items on SushiYaa's menu, though.

One last reason people are ordering takeout may have to do with how they spend their evenings. When people plan to stay at home during their entertainment part of an evening, choosing to binge watch TV shows, watch movies on Netflix, play video games, or browse YouTube, is there any need to leave the house to eat? When watching a movie happens in the living room instead of at a theater, it's easier to eat dinner in your living room, too.