Today in restaurant and grocery tech news: Restaurants invest in the long-term future of outdoor dining, and Instacart acquires a catering software company. Plus, convenience stores turn their focus towards omnichannel availability.

As COVID Persists, Restaurants Reinvest in Outdoor Dining

America’s restaurateurs say they’ve overcome the growing pains from last year’s shaky, COVID-inspired outdoor dining season, a new report by The Wall Street Journal says. Last year, eateries were putting together makeshift open-air dining options that left diners feeling dissatisfied. But this year, restaurant owners have had more time to prepare, investing in better-quality outdoor setups or altering their menus to offer warm meals and hot drinks.

C-Stores Reframe Convenience for the Omnichannel Shopper

With the acceleration of the digital shift, the role of the convenience store is changing. Where their physical locations were once at the core of their value propositions, conveniently located in gas stations and on corners, the rise of the bring-it-to-me economy has turned the c-store model on its head.

Instacart Acquires Catering Software Company in Ongoing Diversification Push to Compete with Restaurant Aggregators

The bring-it-to-me economy is expanding across all of consumers’ food needs. Restaurant-cooked meals and raw groceries make up a relatively limited portion of all food consumed, with hybrid categories such as meal kits, heat and-eat-meals and catered foods also accounting for a significant percentage. Noting this opportunity to expand its commerce occasions, Instacart, the largest online grocery platform in North America, announced Thursday (Oct. 7) that it is acquiring catering software company FoodStorm.

Grocery Roundup: ALDI Goes Cashierless; Jokr Adds Alcohol

This week in grocery, ALDI tries out computer vision checkout in the Netherlands; 15-minute grocery delivery service Jokr adds alcoholic beverages; the FNS boosts the SNAP program with nearly $53 million; and Tesco eases its truck driver shortage-related supply chain challenges by turning to rail freight.