Square, the globally trusted software, payments, and hardware solution for businesses of all sizes, has today released new research that looks at the Future of Restaurants and the Future of Retail in the UK. 

The reports uncover how retailers and restaurateurs are taking control of their future by delivering on customers’ evolving expectations, focusing on reinventing their business model, implementing new technology and maintaining operational efficiency.

Some of the key finding from the report include:

  • An astonishing 97% of consumers now make monthly retail purchases online.
  • Half of UK stores now offer same day in-store pick-up.
  • 73% of consumers have bought products directly from social media in the past month, and 35% would be interested in a virtual reality (VR) shopping experience.
  • 43% of consumers would like to see businesses donate food or supplies to community organisations / charities.
  • 88% of consumers consider the safety measures imposed during pandemic to be critical when shopping indoors.
  • 71% of retailers are looking to inventory management technology to improve their supply chain efficiency.

“Retail has changed rapidly over the last year; but the transformation is giving retailers a chance to slow down and invest in smarter working practices both in-store and online” said David Rusenko, Head of e-Commerce at Square. “The changes aren’t intended to simply ‘keep you going for now’ — they’re permanent and redefining what a meaningful retail experience can look like.”

Regardless of what the pandemic threw at them, commerce businesses across the UK have shown they possess the drive and dedication it takes to survive. The report found that restaurants have been undertaking big changes to existing strategies and adopting new technologies to stay ahead of the curve. For instance:

  • 98% of restaurants have had to reorganise their business in order to survive the past 12 months.
  • One in four consumers consider contactless technology to be critical to their dining experience.
  • 91% of restaurants expect to earn revenue from takeaways in the next twelve months; while one in five expects the majority of sales to come from delivery and takeout sales.
  • 62% of consumers would prefer to use a restaurant’s own website / app for delivery.
  • 35% of restaurants have made investments in kitchen automation technology in the past 12 months, a further 41% plan to invest in the coming six months.
  • 82% of restaurants plan to make changes to their menu to help their business stay competitive.
  • 91% of restaurants intend to continue engaging with their local community next year.

“Restaurants of all types, from independent cafes to large chain restaurants have had to change the way they operate” said Bryan Solar, General Manager of Square for Restaurants. “Around the world we know that people love restaurants, in part because they provide a social encounter that brings us together – technology unlocks restaurants to keep the heart of the experience, just in a more efficient way. Moving forward, restaurants are not only open to change, they’re investing heavily in it, ensuring they stay integrated and connected.”

To uncover these insights, Square spoke with more than 300 restaurants, 500 retail owners and managers, and 1,000 consumers in the UK to find out how business has changed since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and to hear their predictions for what lies ahead in the future of commerce.

In the wake of COVID-19, Square seller ‘The Deli Downstairs’ could no longer serve customers in the cafe area. Its owner, Sophie Taylor, made the decision to convert the entire space into a deli, rapidly pivoting her business from a restaurant to an ever-developing store that truly serves the needs of the local community. The company was already using Square for their inventory management, which made the process of adding new items and produce to their online store easier.

“Being able to upload stock so quickly onto Square has been hugely helpful. If someone needed something, I could order it, get it on that day, and have it on the online shop the next day for them to book delivery,” said Taylor.

Despite a difficult period, the future of commerce is full of opportunities. For a full analysis of the top restaurant and retail trends of 2021, industry insights from Square experts, and real-life examples from innovative Square sellers, you can access the restaurants report here and the retail report here. For questions and additional data insights reach out to press@squareup.com.

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