Ongoing pulse surveys of rd+d readers have shown that off-premises and outdoor dining were major areas of operator investment in 2020 and 2021, and readers surveyed in December 2021 reenforced those trends. Upgrading and improving outdoor dining areas was the number one area of operator investment, according to 43.40% of survey respondents. Upgrading and investment in materials and tools to improve the off-premises dining experience came in second at 23.58%. Upgrading or adding drive-thru and walk-up windows came in a distant third at 17.92%. Other respondents noted that they were seeing new builds, technology upgrades and ghost kitchens as the greatest areas of operator investment.

Extra safety and sanitation measures are still being undertaken in many parts of the country and operators are investing in those areas as well. Touchless technologies, from automated sinks to ordering and payment systems, are being specified or installed in 31.39% of rd+d subscriber’s projects.

Designers are also changing floorplans to create a sense of privacy and distance for patrons dining on-premises in 23.36% percent of rd+d subscribers’ current projects. Another 22.63% of subscribers said they were adding more handwashing stations or other sanitation elements visible to guests.

Still others noted that they are designing with even more flexibility than before to keep up with any major changes a restaurant might need to make in the future.

rd+d’s ongoing research project periodically surveys qualified subscribers on the state of restaurant development and design. This survey was fielded in December 2021.