Themes to watch in the restaurant industry

Katie Cofer | Sep 15, 2017 Katie Cofer 09/15/17

SMG is looking forward to spending time at this year’s MUFSO conference in Dallas, seeing familiar faces and meeting new ones. Every year we leave with our brains buzzing, ready to put everything we learned into practice. MUFSO gives us a chance to meet with top restaurant industry leaders, innovators, thinkers, and doers. We get a chance to step into our clients’ shoes—so we can know more about their business, and how to help them prepare for what’s on the horizon.

The customer landscape is always changing—and every year brings a host of new trends and new challenges. Here are a few ideas we’re expecting to hear a lot about at this year’s conference.

Extreme convenience

Without a doubt, the overarching theme of restaurant trends in 2017 is extreme convenience. Since technology is growing in nearly every aspect of our lives, it’s only natural for major innovations to seep into the restaurant space, too. Customers want what they want when and how they want it—and new technology is helping restaurants deliver it.

Third-party delivery

As a consumer, the option to get any meal delivered straight to your door is a dream come true. On the restaurant end, third-party delivery can be a great way to boost revenue—but that doesn’t mean it comes without challenges. When restaurants hand off their meals to a driver, their product is no longer in their control. But customers still hold the restaurant accountable for any problems that occur between the time they order and the time they receive it—and that’s a big challenge.

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SMG has done quite a bit of research on how the third-party delivery space impacts the customer experience, and we always keep our clients apprised of how they might be affected. In fact, we’re currently using our location-based mobile research app SurveyMini® to track consumer usage trends across demographics and geographies. Stop by our booth at the conference (#513) if you want to chat about how we’re doing it and what we’re learning.

Meal kit delivery

Even when restaurants and delivery services make eating a great meal easier than ever, there’s something to be said for putting in the effort to do it yourself. But how many of us have caught a wave of ambition while sitting at our desks, found an awesome recipe online, and decided that’s what we’re having for dinner? By the time we’ve been to the store and dragged it all home, the thought of chopping that onion can feel like climbing Mt. Everest. We ask ourselves why we didn’t just order in like usual.


Meal kit delivery fills this murky gray void by delivering all the ingredients you need to cook an awesome meal for yourself at home. You get the satisfaction of a home-cooked meal, without all the frustrations involved in finding everything you need to make it happen. It’s a great concept a few companies have been able to execute well already, but we’re also seeing restaurants themselves explore similar concepts. Feeling creative—but also like you could really go for a slice from your favorite pizzeria? Some chains have started offering meal kits for their menu items, so you can scratch both of your culinary itches at the same time.

New technologies

Digital connectivity has changed our entire world—and of course the restaurant space is no different. Technology has cut out plenty of steps in the consumer journey and—in many ways—re-written the map entirely. Wireless vending, mobile orders, order-ahead, and loyalty apps are just a few things most of us probably use without even thinking. These conveniences have become completely integrated—and even expected—in the customer experience.


But it doesn’t stop there. Restaurant innovators are exploring how self-driving cars and drones fit into the delivery experience—and even how robots might be used to reduce labor costs. There’s no question technology is driving the restaurant industry in some exciting directions.

Come see us at booth #513

We’re excited to learn more about how some of the top restaurants in the industry are handling these challenges—and which ones are pushing the boundaries of the restaurant experience even further. If you’ll be attending MUFSO, come visit us at booth #513. We’d love to learn more about what challenges your brand is anticipating, and what innovations you’re excited to integrate into your customer experience.

New to the conference? You can learn more about MUFSO here.

Katie Cofer
VP, Customer Engagement

Customer Experience Update