I’ve lamented the decline of Pizza Hut’s “red roof” – dine-in – locations for many years. Even when I worked there decades ago, there was always an emphasis on carry-out and delivery. And even back then, they had the concept of “delcos” – delivery/carryout-exclusive locations. My delivery manager was always campaigning to open one in our town, probably so he could be a general manager. But if that had happened, what would happen to the dine-in location? Would it be able to cover its own costs?
I’m sure having a dine-in location is much more costly than a delco. Insurance, furniture upkeep, utilities, cleaning costs, there’s a lot more. And it’s funny, because wait staff get paid so little, so it’s not even really a concern of labor costs. But my introductory point is that Pizza Hut pushed take-out food over the dine-in experience for a very long time, and it seems that it has come to pass that dine-in is the great exception now.
Now, doesn’t it seem that everyone is in on this little racket? Every restaurant now offers take out or delivery. If not on their own, through some partner like GrubHub, Uber Eats, DoorDash, or whatever. I just got an email from Chili’s bragging about delivery. I get that people don’t want to cook, so they turn to restaurants. But now it seems that people don’t even want to leave their houses in addition to not wanting to cook. What the hell is going on here?
I read articles about this. Let me tell you something, I often mention that I read articles on this or that in my posts, but I know that means absolutely nothing because you can find an article or two to support any position on any topic out there. But still, that the article exists means someone is observing and thinking about this. Yeah, so, these articles say that the casual dining experience is coming to an end (articles always promote the extreme) because of generational differences. Boomers and millennials (ugh, this again) have different priorities for dining. Ok, sure, but why should the concept of dining out be ending?
Let me cut to the chase here. I hate restaurant take-out, and I would hate restaurant delivery just as much. And my reason is simple and logical. When you go to a restaurant and eat there, you are served your food in courses. You get your drink and some bread, you get your soup or salad, you get your entrée , you get your dessert (if you’re really that hungry). The meal is paced and you have an opportunity to engage in conversation over a period of time. Or, if you’re solo like I am most all the time now, you have a chance to digest and relax between courses.
When you get takeout or delivery, all courses are available at once. Now you have to decide what’s going to suck. Do you want your salad to get warm (if it isn’t already from being packed with your entrée ), do you want your soup to get cool, do you want your entrée to get cool? Which course is going to suck the worst? Or do you want to reheat your entrée after getting through the early courses? But that’s why you ordered out in the first place, right? No cooking.
The few times I did order Outback for takeout was a miserable experience. I live 15 mins from any restaurants, so there’s that chilling time. Then, when I unpack it, I have to eat everything as fast as possible. I bounced between the salad and the steak and the bread, trying to stuff it all in before it got even colder, and I was left with a shitty experience.
Even things like sandwiches don’t really stack up after delivery. They settle, they soak, they cool (or warm). It’s not the same as in-house eating. Even fast food, as low-grade as it is initially, can get worse.
So, my fear now is that the concept of dining out is going to diminish and eventually fade away. I guess it’s not really a fear, because I’ll certainly be dead by then, but I am worried that my options will become more limited in the future, as Pizza Hut is now. Everything would become an “Express”. Olive Garden Express; Longhorn Express; Red Lobster ToGo. And these are all places that young people hate – chain restaurants – so maybe it’s inevitable for demographic reasons.
The future is so bleak. So, so bleak.