Are Digital-Only Restaurants the Next Big Thing?

Are Digital-Only Restaurants the Next Big Thing?

Are Digital-Only Restaurants the Next Big Thing?

  • On September 14, 2021

Since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, the restaurant industry has been required to adapt to new demands quickly, especially with developing service options for customers that fit to new pandemic restrictions. The option for contactless (or minimal contact) food delivery orders and pickup have become the norm for most takeout food options, as well as sit-down restaurants, in order to cut out the possibility of transmission. But did you know that technology has already been in the works to make completely contactless service a possibility for a while? Some restaurant chains have already debuted digital-only restaurant locations and others are developing their own version that will be open to the public soon.

So why is the demand for this type of service growing and will it continue to be a presence beyond the pandemic? Throughout this blog, we’ll explore the possible answers to that question by looking at some current examples of digital-only restaurants, as well as examining their possible impact on the digital signage industry.

Fast Food Leads the Way

The best way to determine if this is merely a new trend or something that is here to stay is to look at the restaurants that are leading the way now and how their implementation of digital restaurants has impacted their success.

Chipotle Mexican Grill

Take Chipotle, for example, a fast-growing industry frontrunner who is leading the way in the digital-only restaurant realm. Chipotle credits a significant portion of their recent growth to pandemic-driven consumer habits that favored delivery and mobile orders, as well as the “Chipotlanes” that make pickup fast and easy.

Chipotle restaurants have been expanding on the potential for success of digital-only orders since last year with its unveiling of the Chipotle Digital Kitchen concept in New York. At this location there is no dining area or front service line. Instead, consumers place their orders online and pick up their food from a lobby. The digital kitchen was designed to fit well into urban locations that don’t necessarily have the capacity to support a full-size restaurant. These locations are also made to service large catering orders and ordering food through third-party delivery partners.

Taco Bell

In addition to its recently opened all digital location in New York City, Taco Bell is also set to open a new restaurant location that is almost completely a digital business in 2022, except this one has self-service drive thru lanes. Customers who come to the planned Minnesota location in search of a Taco Bell menu item won’t have to interact with employees in person unless they choose to. 

At this new location, kiosks in four different drive-thru lanes will replace the traditional digital menu boards, offering a frictionless and unique restaurant design that caters to digital-only service. Three of the lanes will be designated to mobile orders, where the restaurant gets food to customers through a contactless “bell-elevator” system. The one remaining lane will be a traditional drive-thru lane. Two-way digital and audio tech will be available for customers to communicate with employees on the 2nd floor.


How will digital-only restaurants impact the digital signage industry?

If this is the direction that restaurant chains are headed, does this mean that the digital signage business will be out of work because indoor digital menu boards are unnecessary at these locations? Absolutely not. Digital signage companies like Keyser are more than equipped to provide the technology necessary for these digital-only restaurants, like self-service kiosks, outdoor menu boards, and reader boards, just to name a few.

Our experience as a digital signage company already crossed over into increasing outdoor signage for drive-thru service at a major restaurant chain. We played an important role in making McDonald’s drive-thru options more efficient and user-friendly. 

We expect and plan for the industry to keep moving forward by offering more minimal contact service options. As a result, digital signage technology will continue to play a part in offering digital services and the development of digital-only restaurants.


What are the future implications of digital-only restaurants?

With all the new changes in the restaurant industry, there’s no doubt that this topic might strike up a debate about the implications of moving towards digital-only restaurants. Some may view it as a negative sign that more services are digital, but we’re not here to tell you what to believe. What we do know is that there are a number of measured benefits (for both businesses and consumers) to digital self-service that you may not have thought of. Here are a few of the big ones:

  • More options mean better service – Think of the presence of digital-only restaurants less as doing away with in-person service, and more as adding a contactless option for those who want or need it. Not every consumer has to utilize digital-only service options, but providing that option makes your restaurant a more well-rounded business that caters to its customer’s needs.
  • Reducing the burden on workers – Sometimes a business can only afford to hire so many people, especially if it’s not a large chain restaurant. Kiosks that are integrated into restaurant services can help keep the flow of business strong while affording your employees a less burdensome shift.
  • Accessibility – A more dynamic range of service options offers more accessibility for people with disabilities or other barriers to in-person service. 
  • Accuracy – Self-service kiosks and signage tend to reduce human error, increasing the accuracy of your service.
  • Better sales results – Self-service increases digital sales and can serve more customers in a shorter span of time. Up-selling rates also tend to increase when customers utilize self-service kiosks.

How to start implementing digital signage at your restaurant

If you’re ready to look into installing digital signage to increase self-service at your restaurant, or to start envisioning a digital-only restaurant location, contact us for a free consultation on your next signage project. Keyser is a well-established and highly-respected digital signage company perfectly suited for large signage solutions and installation projects. Contact us at [email protected] today.


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