Dine-in or takeout: weighing in on the restaurant experience

by Lauren Kelly (’23)|November 19, 2021

Art by Ana Gallaga (’25)

As more restaurants open up and the eatery scene becomes more reminiscent of what it was in 2019, I can’t help but wonder if takeout was ever worth it. Yes, the easy relaxation of ordering food online can’t be matched by the in-person equivalent, but there is just something about enjoying a meal outside the home. Can the in-restaurant experience somehow ever be replaced by the convenience of ordering takeout?

According to Vixxo, a company dedicated to facilities management, 62% of Americans prefer dining-in to ordering takeout or delivery. When dining in, customers tend to receive the best guest experiences, since restaurants were able to provide the highest level of service, food, and atmosphere. Beyond quality and ambience, dining-in also offers one of the few opportunities for many people to connect with others. Even though dine-in is currently a favorable choice for many Americans, restaurants have not received the full return of in-person dining due to the pandemic.

However, digital orders are expected to triple by the end of 2022. For many, takeout is more preferable due to its convenience, comfort, and cost-efficiency. Although these kinds of orders have been increasing since before the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing caused a massive acceleration in takeout orders. In fact, nearly 70% of American adults are more likely to order takeout than they were pre-pandemic.

Although Americans currently prefer dining-in over takeout, both takeout and dining-in serve as viable options for restaurant owners. Restaurants are more able to take care of any problems that arise when customers are dining-in. Dine-in visits are also easier for restaurants to boost margins. On the other hand, a fully staffed restaurant adds extra labor costs. In order to fulfill takeout orders, the cost is lower than it is for dine-in orders. Takeout orders control the customer service experience, while attracting new patrons. While the luxury of enjoying a “night on the town” isn’t preserved in the takeout scene, both the convenience of delivery and high-quality dishes has certainly pushed the American public towards online ordering apps, including UberEats and DoorDash.

Not only are the amount of takeout orders dramatically increasing, but many people also plan to order curbside and cook at home more. Curbside orders, once a rare feature, are now competing with drive-thru orders. In a month, just under 50% of consumers increased or maintained their use of curbside. Additionally, cooking at home has increased in popularity because of the pandemic. Home-cooked meals, while often romanticized, are difficult, especially at the end of the work day. Despite this, home-cooking is a measure of safety, since the ingredients and preparations are known beforehand. Furthermore, home-cooked meals can be cost-controlled, especially for those who employ thrift in their weekly grocery shopping. While many urban workers dine out or order takeout for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the rise of hybrid models of work will lead to a surefire increase in cooking meals at home.

Categories: Food

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