Independent restaurants were already hurting before COVID. Many will never reopen after the pandemic, and chains are expected to eat up even more market share. The ones that do survive might have big opportunities to grow into the spaces (both literal and figurative) vacated by defunct restaurants. There will likely be a flattening and homogenization of the restaurant landscape. Byrne Hobart wrote about this, referring to the phenomenon as "frontend corporatization," noting, "Starbucks will grab the spot your neighborhood coffee shop was in...your local gym will become a Planet Fitness."
Byrne also wrote about the opposite vision: "Backend corporatization." He suggested lenders might step in, keeping restaurants afloat but forcing them to modernize through technology. While that might be a good place to start, a tech company offering a restaurant OS could level-up by combining such a system with franchise-quality playbooks.
Someone who lives and breathes restaurants might recognize the less-publicized benefits of doing business as a restaurant franchisee. In the best case, it's a business-in-a-box, including every necessary tech and operational solution, even providing step-by-step educational materials for the business. This is tremendously valuable, but the default model makes this inaccessible to restaurants without the requisite capital.
There's an opportunity for a Shopify-style company to help provide these benefits at a lower cost. While the restauranteur would own the brand, the platform could assist with everything else, including menu planning, ingredient and consumable ordering, and marketing (both tactical and strategic). This could be coupled with software solutions, including point of sale, online ordering, kitchen management, and delivery service triaging.
While not all restaurants fit into neat categories, this type of platform would allow food entrepreneurs to pick-and-choose the pieces that fit their business. The end product would be a modern restaurant that boasts the benefits of franchising without the onerous capital requirements, forced branding, and hefty fees.
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