More than half (62%) of consumers asked said they preferred to use a restaurant’s own website or app for delivery, according to data from digital payments company Square.

A survey as part of its Future of Restaurants Report also found that one in four consumers considered the availability of contactless technology to be of vital importance to their dining experience, while the same proportion viewed the ability to order from a digital menu as a critical safety measure when then they dine out over the next year.

The report, which also sought the views of 300 restaurant owners, found that 35% of restaurant operators have made investments in kitchen automation technology in the past 12 months, with a further 41% planning to invest in that area in the coming six months.

While one in five operators said they expected the majority of their sales to come from delivery or takeaway channels over the next 12 months.

During the pandemic, many businesses had to pivot or expand into new channels in order to make up the inability to accept walk-ins. “We’re seeing that the defined, straight vertical lines of your retail business versus your restaurant versus your services business are all blurring,” said David Rusenko, head of ecommerce at Square.

“I think this blending of verticals is a really big trend that we’re starting to see, and it’s going to turn a lot of businesses into ‘multihyphenates’. A restaurant-bar-store, for example, might be a place that sells monthly subscriptions, mixology classes, retail gear, and tastings in addition to serving food and drinks.”

Other changes brought about by the restrictions since March 2020 also look set to continue on a more long-term basis. For example, 39% of restaurants introduced outdoor seating over the course of the past year, while 42% of restaurants expanded their existing level of outdoor seating, with 43% of those asked stating they would maintain the current levels of outdoor seating over the course of the next year.

Looking at what consumers want to see over the next 12 months, compared to what restaurants are planning to offer, the report found that new or expanded loyalty programs was the most popular choice from the options, with 37% of consumer stating they’d be keen to see it and 26% of operators looking to offer it.

Other popular options with consumers were meal or cocktail kits, which appealed to 35%; virtual tasting and dining events (23%), online cookery classes (19%), and subscription services such as wine clubs (16%).