Digital Transformation September 9, 2020

Technology Hacks Restaurants Can Use to Redefine Customer Experience Beyond COVID -19

Written by Analytix Editorial Team Jagruti Patel

Technology will be a key part of any restaurant’s recovery toolkit as they reopen post COVID-19. According to research by AlixPartners, more than half (51%) of the consumers surveyed are warming to the idea of dining out but they want to feel safe.

As more people resume their “new normal” lives, restaurant operators can’t simply revert to business as usual. Surveys show that diners are wary about their safety and expect contactless solutions to enjoy a secure, safe experience with peace of mind. Restaurants need to seize the opportunity to innovate in meeting the changed and growing expectations of their customers. To do so, they need a swift adoption of contactless technology solutions to resume business and offer an enhanced technology experience to their guests and staff alike.

Hack #1: Progressive Web Apps or QR Codes for Contactless Menus and Ordering

A restaurant’s ability to integrate contactless technology solutions such as digital menus, contactless ordering, and contactless payments will be essential to keep the doors open and stay in business. According to a recent survey by Dataessentials, 65% of U.S. diners will accept no physical menus as a rule, while 92% like the idea of disposable menus. The National Restaurant Association (NRA) guidelines also promote mobile ordering apps and greater use of contactless technology solutions to reduce person-to-person interaction. Similarly, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that restaurants should avoid providing physical menus and instead use digital menus as well as touchless payment options to help lower the risk of COVID-19 exposure and spread.

Ordering food online has become a norm since a while now, but with its changed dynamics, customers now have no reason to stop at the restaurant’s door! A fully digital experience eliminates the need for paper menus, bills, and receipts, thereby protecting diners and staff from unnecessary exposure and contact. Online ordering enables customers to enjoy dining with peace of mind. It also increases table turns and repeat visits. Digitizing the entire menu and ordering experience not only helps in personalizing the guest experience but also establishes a safe environment for the customers.

Contactless dining can be as simple as having a QR code on the table, or as sophisticated as developing a progressive web application (PWA) for your restaurant or integrating a third-party app to collect orders. Restaurant PWAs are powerful, superlight, and offer a native app-like solution that ensures a safe environment and a memorable customer experience in today’s competitive market. Similarly, QR codes are a quick, safe, and efficient technology solution for a seamless dining experience. QR codes can be placed on the table and accessed through your apps or website. Thus, contactless menu and contactless ordering not only adhere to the ‘new normal’ created by the pandemic, but also allow for better customer experiences.

Hack #2: Contactless Payments Systems like Digital Check Presenter

Post-COVID-19, technology solutions that leverage mobile wallets and tap-and-pay cards, but decrease person-to-person transactions, will improve guest safety. A Digital Check Presenter allows guests to use a built-in credit card processor to scan, tap, or insert the card right at the table, thus eliminating contact and slowing the spread of the virus. A Digital Check Presenter also facilitates faster table turns and restaurants need to use it to full potential due to its digital nature.

Hack #3: Cloud Automation in Restaurant Tech

As restaurants look to cut costs and rebuild, automation can be an effective, cost-saving strategy for routine tasks, allowing the restaurant staff to focus on delivering a positive customer experience. Restaurant cloud automation solutions help integrate all financial and operational functions into a single dashboard. Together with cloud-based analytics, small and growing restaurants can tap in to get insights which were once accessible only to the largest players in the hospitality industry. These cloud solutions help realize operational efficiencies and present compelling new opportunities to deliver unique experiences, taking advantage of the latest technology with a speed that was unimaginable just a few years ago. Cloud automation enhances the efficiency of back-room ordering and inventory functions to ensure better control over daily tasks, while also ensuring high efficiency and productivity.

Hack #4: Embracing Cloud Kitchen

The COVID-19 pandemic has led restaurants to venture into cloud kitchen services for ensuring sustainable growth and constant expansion. Cloud kitchen or ‘ghost kitchen’, cooking facilities that produce food only for delivery with no dine-in or customer-facing areas, are shaping the restaurant industry. According to Euromonitor’s report, cloud kitchens or virtual kitchens could be a $1 Trillion global market by 2030. Since cloud kitchens allow restaurants to cut back on two major cost drives, rent and labor, and with doorstep food delivery becoming the norm, leading experts suggest that the adoption of this service could be accelerated and doubled in the next 12 months in the U.S.

Technology plays a pivotal role in the success of cloud kitchens, as most orders are made online through a mobile app, a website or a third party delivery aggregator. A cloud kitchen requires a Point of Sale (POS) system and restaurant scheduling software to accept and maintain records of orders from those. Running a successful cloud kitchen also requires a smart inventory management system to effectively manage inventory, and an integrated Kitchen Display System (KDS) to ensure operational efficiency and to streamline cloud kitchen management.

Hack #5: Self-Order Kiosks

Self-order kiosks reduce wait-time and give customers a minimal-contact way to place their order and pay for their meal. Self-order kiosks ensure a safe experience by helping guests maintain social distancing, which may not always be possible when ordering at the counter. They allow restaurant operators to offer a top-notch digital experience with an easy-to-use interface that also reduces labor costs. Establishing self-order kiosks will make the buying experience easier for more customers, especially for fast food and quick-service restaurant chains. With many companies now introducing temperature detection and biometric identity verification, self-service kiosks will likely play a vital role post-COVID-19.

Your technology alignment should keep pace with the growth of your restaurant business and the increasing complexity of market dynamics. Partnering with an agile technology company that combines a rich domain and a vertical experience with deep technical expertise can help quickly pivot and aggressively address your current needs so that you are well-positioned in this ‘new normal’.

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