Human Behavior and the Future of Indoor Dining

group of young adults gathering for indoor dining

As restaurants scrambled to stay afloat during COVID-19, they quickly pivoted to serving guests using a variety of different channels in different ways. Dining room business was replaced with delivery and curbside pickup.  Ghost kitchens flourished based on the premise that, at minimum, the “new” restaurant is a kitchen connected to a third-party delivery service; therefore, table service became optional. The public quickly adapted to the new way of doing business and most restaurants made it through the pandemic, some even thrived!  Which leads to the question: now that things are opening up again what about indoor dining? 

The social connection

To answer this question, we first must look at why people go out to eat in the first place.  As humans, we are social beings. Anthropologists have long attributed our need for social connection to how we stayed close to each other to face survival challenges through the ages. It goes beyond that.  Our vision can detect even the most minute changes in how someone is looking at us. Our hearing can quickly identify and categorize a multitude of tones.  We are literally made to interact with the world and those interactions are connected to how we feel, and how we categorize our experiences. 

Future of indoor dining

Dining in a restaurant not only provides us with a way to satisfy our hunger for food, but it also satisfies our all-important need for social interaction. Restaurant owners should not forget that.  In the race to focus on a multitude of delivery platforms, ghost kitchens and self-service, it would be a mistake to discount the most cherished need of the past 18 months: human contact.

It would not only help to look at lessons on how we behaved during the pandemic but by also looking at how we are exiting it. The hotel industry is reporting that it is now high season year-round. Even with higher prices than usual, there isn’t enough supply to meet demand – but only for destinations that are memorable.

Final thoughts

For dine-in restaurants, the focus should be on “high touch” while fully integrating their online, mobile, phone and call center guest experience so it is automatic for operations and frictionless for the guest.  Solutions like allow restaurateurs to bring in-house this level of technology, allowing every guest to be treated the way they want to be treated while freeing up dine-in staff to create memorable guest experiences.

It is not a one-size-fits-all world anymore.  You must use each guest service channel in the most appropriate way possible, and when it comes to dine-in, we can’t forget that we go to restaurants for more than a transaction. We go for that smile and for that interaction. Technology should enable that, but it should not replace it.


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