Pandemic to leave lasting impact on new Indiana restaurant concepts

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INDIANAPOLIS — With an estimated 20% of Indiana restaurants closing since the start of the pandemic, it’s expected that COVID will have a lasting impact on how restaurants operate in the state in the future.

“We are all about consumer behavior. What will a consumer be willing to do?” asked Patrick Tamm, president and CEO of the Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association (InRLA).

So far, Tamm says drive-thru and fast casual restaurants are the locations that are seeing success during the pandemic. He believes restaurants may retrofit or build new concepts to maximize carry-out capability. Take-out and drive-thru services can be some of the most difficult for restaurants to operate.

“If someone’s role was forgotten, and it’s not on the dining room plate, they can fix it,” detailed Tamm. “You may see stand alone restaurants being built with additional curb side, additional carry-out delivery services. The architecture and layouts on concepts are changing.”

InRLA suggests new restaurants may even capitalize on outdoor seating, which could lead to more rooftop dining even in suburban areas. You may also see drive-thru services at restaurants you would never expect to offer it.

“We have already seen prototypes where you are going to have four lanes for a drive-thru. With the kitchen, the building would have it actually be above the drive-thru lanes,” imagined Tamm.

The Garage Food Hall just opened at the ever growing Bottleworks District. They are hoping their mix of fast casual and sit down dining will allow consumers the flexibility to dine however they feel most comfortable. This is the key of post-pandemic dining.

“Food halls have been around a while. It may be a new trend in this market,” said Garage Food Hall General Manager Nicole Ulrich. “It is a little bit of a safer approach to dining, and I think people feel safe here.”

The hall has fourteen food, drink, and retail vendors in place with four more coming in the future.

“They just want to see what’s around here,” said Carla McDaniel with Abbiocco Pizzeria, a restaurant in the Garage. “With the vaccine, people are hopeful in the restaurant industry that more people will come out and eat.”

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