Whether we’re talking about take-out, delivery services like Favor and UberEats, or just an “old fashioned” delivery driver that works directly for the restaurant, providing meals to-go is a big deal these days.

In 2016, according to Fortune, “the percentage of orders booked online or using a smartphone or tablet app—now 6.6% of the total—exceeded the quantity placed verbally over the telephone (5%).

Of course, as any restaurant owner can tell you, the challenges of getting with the digital age can have a wide range of effects. From better containers to rethinking menu items and possibly redesigning the kitchen. There’s even a burgeoning “delivery-only” trend that skips the actual brick-and-mortar restaurant part. But like it or not, this take-out train has left the station. Better jump on board or risk being left behind.

Here’s some info on the take-out trend that might be helpful, courtesy of Ventura Foods. (Hint — technology and millennials are involved!)

Increased to-go patronage

A wider availability of carryout and delivery options has led to increased to-go occasions. Consumers purchase takeout on average 5.5 times per month. For takeout occasions, carryout orders outnumber delivery three to one, likely since carryout is more widely available and less expensive. Takeout mostly appeals to consumers who don’t feel like dining in at a restaurant, and more and more that is the norm amongst younger diners. Further, consumers primarily see takeout meals as alternatives to food prepared at home. These points signal that takeout can drive additional traffic rather than cannibalize dine-in revenue.

  • 33% of consumers are ordering food to go more often than they were three years ago
  • Amenities for off-premise orders are increasing, such as separate ordering counters or more efficient drive-thrus
  • Consumers are expected to begin slowly shifting away from ordering takeout as more operators introduce delivery options

Easier ordering tech –FRICTIONLESS Behaviors

Consumers no longer have to pick up the phone to make a takeout order request. Online and mobile ordering is proliferating, with many chains making better mobile ordering sites a priority. Text message ordering is now available in the market, with chains like Mazzio’s Italian Eatery introducing these services. And chatbot ordering via social media is also available. These initiatives appeal to younger consumers, many of whom are now ordering food to go more often, as they’re the heaviest users of social media and mobile technology.

  • 43% would order carry-out via text
  • More chains are updating their digital ordering via new websites so customers can mobile order without downloading an app
  • Next-up ordering initiatives are increasing, from Zero Click mobile ordering, to Apple TV and Apple Watch ordering, to Amazon ordering

Catered family dinners at FSRs

A staple at LSRs for decades, takeout meals marketed for convenient family-dining solutions on weeknights are now trending at more FSRs. These include shareable family-style entrees and family value bundles. Often, customers are given the option to preorder these foods and get them delivered. In the past year, some initiatives from chains have included LTO family-sized takeout meals from Olive Garden, carryout family bundles from Carrabba’s Italian Grill and preordering capability promotions for takeout family dinners at Zoe’s Kitchen.

  • 44% of millennials say they would use restaurant catering for a special occasion dinner with family
  • Varied-menu chains are set to follow Italian chains that are currently driving the charge for catered family dinners
  • More options are being geared toward families with multiple age ranges, from young kids to teens to adults

Adult beverages to-go

Starting with retail adult beverage delivery, such as Pernod Ricard’s partnership with iPhone app Drizly, restaurants will begin offering adult beverages to go –as already seen with meal delivery programs such as Blue Apron. Some have already started testing to-go beer, including Buffalo Wild Wings, while emerging chain The Craft Bar in Florida is one of a few concepts selling its craft draft beers in to-go canned growlers—aka crowlers. Restaurants will have to find a way to sell prepared adult beverages to go without violating open container laws.

  • 42% of consumers typically order beverages when they order carryout/delivery
  • To-go cocktails are set to be next, following TGI Fridays’ experimentation with mixed drink bags, which the customer adds alcohol to at home
  • Innovative packaging to appeal to on-the-go consumers and to adhere to state-by-state open container laws

Better takeout packaging

Consumers want versatile takeout packaging that goes beyond simply maintaining food quality. They want packaging that supports the consumption, storage and reheating of food, highlighting the need for packaging made of sturdy materials that resist cracks, punctures and heat. Plus, 46% of consumers say it’s important that packaging has separate compartments, aligning with the perception that food ordered to go should taste the same as food eaten in-house. There is also a consideration for food safety to think about.

  • 39% of consumers say for to-go orders it’s important that they can store leftovers in the original packaging
  • More eco-friendly packaging will appeal to consumers who prioritize sustainability
  • More packaging options are being developed that are meant to balance things like humidity, heat and air circulation