Dinner is Served…Online?


Wayne Farms

Never mind what mom said…when it comes to trends in the food and beverage industry, we’re encouraging you to play with your food. Food and beverage now serve as outlets of expression for consumers. The pandemic, fuel and housing costs along with rising inflation are on the minds of many, and consumers are looking for feel-good experiences with their dining options. Mintel Trends reports that “consumers are in need of joyful and playful respites amid the anxiety and stress from the pandemic and other crises” and notes that creating food experiences for consumers is what will set restaurateurs apart from their competition. How can we make food more fun? Many of the solutions lie in the digital world.

While decadent desserts or discounts may come to mind, the joy people are searching for can come in the form of gamifying, redefining classics, creating an online ordering experience, and even appealing to their inner-kid for a nostalgic break from reality.

Gamifying and Creating Online Ordering Experiences

Did you know that 60% of U.S. consumers order delivery or takeout once a week? How about 70% of consumers saying they’d rather order directly from a restaurant? This year we are seeing that diners prefer ordering directly from the source - in addition to the ease, they say that they like knowing that their money goes straight to the restaurant and not a third party. We’ve also learned that customers who place an online order with a restaurant will visit that restaurant 67% more frequently than those who don’t (upserve.com).

With all the focus on online orders, there is a huge opportunity for operators to create unique online order experiences for their customers. Streamlining your digital order system, creating an easy online order reward system or app, and implementing easy-to-check order tracking systems are all excellent ways to capitalize on the online order trends and increase your customer base. Give consumers a fun and friendly online experience, and make ordering as quick and easy as possible – no one wants to set up an entire account just to order a pizza anymore. If you are asking for your diner to create an account using personal information, give them a reason to return over and over again such as a rewards system or game.

Creating a game experience may take more time and effort upfront, but will increase your fan base and help you build meaningful connections with consumers in the long run. Operators can gamify recipes by giving health and wellness upgrades, and you can gamify ordering with rewards programs, bonuses, and menu “power-ups”.

Finally, create dining stories and videos that focus on transparency and education. While fun and games are the themes this year, there is still a tremendous focus from consumers on sustainability and transparency. Brands and food service operators that showcase their commitment to better products and sustainability sourced foods fare better than those who do not, and online is a great place to showcase your commitment to health for consumers and the planet.


“The adoption of tech-based strategies will help chicken foodservice concepts improve engagement with today’s consumers.” - WattPloulty.com

With the metaverse, consumers don virtual reality glasses, create an avatar and meet up with friends. Consumers can enter virtual restaurants and join campaigns, or place orders for chicken wings, pizzas, and other items that get delivered directly to their homes. Talk about the future—it’s today—am I right?

Many fast-food brands have stepped up to be early adopters of the metaverse by creating campaigns – Chipotle, Wendy’s, and Mcdonald's have all created virtual restaurants where gamers can interact online, win prizes, and complete missions. In addition to creating interactive opportunities, operators can now implement order functions where gamers can order food to be delivered to their homes in the real world. This new universe is opening a whole new world for digital connections with brands, and the opportunity for creativity is endless.

Redefine Playing With Food

Redefine junk food classics on your menu, in the metaverse, or on tiktok. Who doesn’t love a good Cheeto, Dorito, or classic potato chip? Utilize junk-food classics in your menu (Dorito-crusted chicken, anyone?). Create interactive opportunities for your consumers by appealing to their inner kid. Encourage your online diners to “be the chef” and create crazy menu items, or reinvent your menu on tiktok. However you decide to do it, get a little messy with your menu and let people’s imaginations go wild.

Consumers still love the convenience of a take-home meal kit and operators have the opportunity to provide endless options for upgrades and give consumers a fun take-home experience. Try creating starter kits that give consumers multiple power-up options to play with - put them in control of spicing things up while being the catalyst for creativity by providing them with a “chose your own adventure” style dinner. This could mean providing the entire kit sans protein and letting the consumer choose their protein option, or even giving recipe challenges such as “choose one ingredient from your own pantry and tell us how you used it”. The ideas are endless for the right creative mind.

Creativity is key this year and will set you up for success. Digital dining from the Metaverse to online innovations will be paramount in attracting and keeping adventurous eaters.