Restaurant Reinvention

A Time of Rapid Change and Rapid Evolution

Restaurants, notoriously slow to evolve, have had to fully reinvent themselves in the last couple of years, embracing sizable delivery models, rethinking their entire operations, and managing labor shortages and defective supply chains. With things starting to settle down, what’s here to stay? And how can restaurants set themselves up for success going into 2023? Of course, we looked to consumers to answer these questions.

One area where restaurants have made innovative strides is at the drive-thru. Seeing that the drive-thru is used by 74% of Americans at least once a month, but has hardly been touched since its invention in the 1960’s, it was about time this feature saw a substantial upgrade. Or at least that’s what we thought. After talking to consumers, it turns out, 3-story drive-unders, robot deliveries, and mega drive-thrus might just be a waste of money. What consumers really want is quick order fulfillment, an easy pickup or delivery experience, and unvaried quality (e.g. hot food, accurate order, etc.). That is, they want speed, convenience, and predictability. Lather, rinse, and repeat. Rather than over-the-top drive-thru designs, it’s all about the operations (i.e. intuitive wayfinding, app adoption, automation, and guest journey reimagining). Break that down with us in our POV, Drive-Thru Break-Through, or by listening to this WDCast episode, with WD’s SVP of Operations, Strategy, and Design, Joanne Heyob.

Drive-Thru Break-Through POV by WD Partners

2022 was yet another year of learning, testing, and adapting in the restaurant world as restaurants continued to ride waves of uncertainty and panic. And it’s no secret that a major trend following the pandemic was an escalation in delivery and mobile ordering–2023 projections show that delivery channels alone will comprise 40% of restaurant sales. We talked to 1,500 consumers to find out what they want from their favorite restaurants in a post-pandemic world, and no surprise, pickup came out as king with 79%, 80%, and 65% of respondents saying that pickup is a must in QSR, fast casual, and full-service restaurants respectively. Don’t go knocking out all your dining rooms yet, as a significant amount of consumers still find value in the dining room. Rather than death to the dining room, we read our data as a call to consider how you can optimize operations and reallocate resources to make your space meet the needs of all consumers. Read about the details of our study and our recommendations for how restaurants can optimize their space and minimize the impact of future disturbances to the industry in this POV.

Dine-O-Mite POV by WD Partners

Some brands have already dove headfirst into digital and delivery innovation, altogether changing the name of the game in food service. Chipotle, TikTok, and Taco Bell are just a handful of brands turning innovative restaurant concepts into a reality, opening digital- and deliver-only stores. These formats open opportunities to decrease square footage, simplify back of house operations, and pinpoint fulfillment pain points. Read more about these forward thinkers here.

TikTok Kitchen - Say What? Wayfind Article by WD Partners

Identifying what your local customers want, and the bottlenecks and pain points in your operations, are necessary steps to building brand loyalty and staying in the game. However, with thousands of restaurants to choose from and consumers looking to gain back some of those dining experiences they lost during lockdowns, there is also a need to bring back some emotion and energy to restaurants, and to focus on the consumer experience. “Where’s the excitement? The passion?” asks WD’s EVP of Creative, Jay Highland. Check out his article Restaurant Mashup: 2’s Better than 1 to read about some of his creative ideas for how to bring it back.

Operation rehaul and reimagined customer experience? Does a full reinvention sound impossible? It doesn’t have to be, especially with help. Reach out to us at to learn about our expertise in the industry and how we can help you take steps towards creating a memorable, functional experience for your customers and staff.

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