More than two-thirds of Americans have never visited a restaurant, but restaurants are proving to be a major part of the restaurant landscape.
A new survey by The Motley Fool finds that 70% of respondents say they have visited at least one restaurant in their lifetime, up from 59% in 2018.
Most restaurant owners agree that they want to sell more food at a time when diners are hungry.
That’s why, in 2018, restaurant chains including Chipotle Mexican Grill, Starbucks, Chipotle’s Mexican Grill and Olive Garden announced major new food and beverage partnerships with the likes of McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell.
Many of the partnerships are centered around fresh, seasonal food, which many people will be familiar with.
“The question is, can you sell it better and still have a decent meal?” says Daniel Vavreck, a partner at Drexel University’s Harris Polling Institute and the former head of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“In the last few years, it’s really been the case that you’re going to be able to sell things in a way that will be appealing to people that have never seen the menu before.”
The top three reasons people give for dining out are: food, service, and atmosphere.
The Motively Restaurant Association, which represents more than 2,500 restaurant owners, surveyed 1,000 of them in late 2018 to gauge their opinions on whether they have ever eaten at a restaurant.
In 2018, more than one-third of respondents said they had visited at a diner.
Some of those restaurants include Chipotle, Starbucks and Olive Gate.
Restaurants that are doing better are finding ways to appeal to those who may not have visited before.
In the last six months, Chip, Starbucks Coffee, Burger Queen, and Olive Gourmet have launched their own new restaurants and introduced new food.
The Olive Garden, Chipotles, and McDonald’s have all rolled out new menu items.
“Our main takeaway is, if you’re a restaurant owner, we know you want to make sure you can sell food to people,” says Vavrek.
“We want you to make your business more than just a restaurant.”
For some of the restaurants, that means creating new food that will appeal to a wide audience.
For example, in the last three years, Olive Garden has expanded its menu to include the Chicken and Veggie Burger, which is a new option for the restaurant.
“They have a new menu item that’s coming out that will have a lot of customers who aren’t familiar with the menu,” says Brad Gaskins, Olive’s chief marketing officer.
The restaurant is also working to introduce a new seasonal food called the Fresh & Easy.
It will be a new take on the classic grilled cheese sandwich, which will be available for delivery on a weekly basis.
In addition, the chain is introducing new salads, soups and appetizers that will make the restaurant even more appealing to the casual dining crowd.
The chain is also making the transition from a traditional restaurant to a more “lean” business model.
The new menu will be served in a more traditional dining room, and the new menu is designed to appeal more to the “leaner” customers, says Gaskin.
“There’s a lot to be said about offering a little bit more variety and not trying to cram everything in,” he adds.
“But we want people to feel good about the food they’re eating.”
The survey also found that about half of all restaurants say they are trying new types of menus, with more than half offering fresh food, salads, sandwiches and entrees, as well as new and improved cocktails.
“It’s not just the menu we’re talking about,” says Mark Osterman, executive vice president of operations for Chipotle.
“Chipotle’s new menu has a lot going on.”
The Motively Restaurants Association and the National Restaurant Association are both sponsoring a food industry summit this week that will discuss how to make food taste better, improve customer service and attract more diners to the restaurants.
The industry group has partnered with several high-profile brands to share how they are doing at increasing customer satisfaction, according to a news release.
“One of the biggest challenges in the restaurant industry today is that many restaurants are struggling to keep up with the demand for food and how they deliver it,” said David D’Angelo, chairman of the National Association of Restaurant and Catering Executives.
“This conference will be an opportunity to share our experiences and strategies to help our industry and its stakeholders create a sustainable future for the food and beverages industry.”
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