When the coronavirus pandemic hit the restaurant industry early last year, restaurants were forced to undergo a significant transformation. While turning to more creative strategies to combat lockdowns, limited capacity, dwindling inventory, and social distancing guidelines, technology became the backbone of restaurant operations.
While restaurants utilized new technology to provide their consumers with safe and convenient services during the height of the pandemic, these trends have persisted even as restrictions ease and will undoubtedly continue well into 2021 and beyond. Consumers are hoping for an end to coronavirus complications, but they can’t say the same for the technology trends adopted by businesses along the way. To meet customer expectations and remain successful in the new year and for years to come, restaurants will want to consider adopting these six technology trends:
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that it will be crucial to remove human contact from transactions. Restaurateurs leveraged contactless and other non-traditional payment technologies during the pandemic to combat the spread of harmful pathogens. Since then, contactless technologies have slowly become the new way to pay. Being passed from person to person, cards, cash, and change can quickly spread germs between restaurant customers and staff. With virus anxiety so high, many people turn to eWallets like GooglePay and ApplePay to pay for their meals with zero contact.
Not only do contactless payments protect consumer health, but they also add speed and convenience to the checkout process. Instead of leaving a credit card or cash on the table and waiting for the server to take it and return with receipts or change, customers can pay with their smartphone right at the table. A pay-at-table kiosk or tablet POS unit equipped with NFC technology can quickly accept mobile wallet payments. This improves customer satisfaction and increases table turnover.
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Unsure of when more lockdowns will occur, online ordering is a vital service for restaurants to offer. Instead of indoor-dining, online ordering technology paired with delivery or curbside service allows restaurants to remain operational amid capacity limits. It gives customers a chance to enjoy their favorite restaurant’s food in the comfort of their homes. Even long after the pandemic passes, an online ordering service will provide restaurants with an additional revenue stream. Orders made online are proven to be larger as customers have more time to look the menu over at their own pace. This provides ample opportunity for restaurateurs to upsell to customers and maximize profitability.
Restaurant operations will become streamlined with the right online ordering solution as orders are sent directly to the kitchen for preparation upon receipt. To optimize online ordering operations as much as possible, restaurateurs should select a solution that seamlessly integrates with their POS. In 2021, online ordering technology is no longer a luxury. It is a necessity.
Curbside service is a flexible and convenient option for your customers. With the industry still in such an unpredictable state, curbside service could save your business, allowing customers to merely call-in or order online and pick up their food at the curb. With minimized contact and crowd control, curbside pickup is a favorite of customers who are more hesitant to return to normal restaurant operations.
Curbside service is nothing without the right technology, however. While some curbside customers may pay online when they order, others might order over the phone or prefer to pay for their order in-person. In these cases, curbside technology such as tablet POS will be vital to create a seamless curbside experience. With tablet POS, staff can conduct payments car-side rather than walking back inside to process transactions at a stationary POS. With tablet POS technology, you can give your staff the tools they need to offer your curbside customers pleasant and speedy service.
Self-serve kiosk technology is gaining traction in the restaurant industry—and with good reason. While kiosks won’t replace your staff, they can help lighten the load and allow your staff to be reallocated to prep stations falling behind. Instead of having so many employees stationed at the order counter, customers can enter their orders into the self-service kiosks. Not only does this free up your staff, but it also minimizes order errors as the customer has full control. In establishments where servers take orders by hand, it eliminates the misunderstandings that can come with reading messy handwriting and losing order slips.
Self-service kiosks improve restaurant operations when servers don’t have to take orders manually. Once the customer submits their order, it is sent directly to the kitchen for immediate preparation. Kiosks also provide increased profits when customers have more time to view the menu at their own pace, increasing their average order size. Finally, self-service kiosks prove essential in an uncertain climate. Kiosks can be utilized when restaurant staff attendance is low due to sickness or layoffs, ensuring restaurants can remain operational.
Outdoor dining is the perfect way to increase the number of customers you can serve, pandemic or not. Amid social distancing guidelines, outdoor dining provides a safer option for hesitant customers and allows restaurants to maximize their capacity. However, like curbside service and online ordering, outdoor dining won’t be successful without the right technology. Mobile POS will be a necessity to take orders tableside and allow customers to pay-at-the-table. Other technologies include heaters or fans to keep customers comfortable in various weather conditions, ensuring a positive customer experience. With the future uncertain, having an outdoor dining plan will act as insurance should indoor dining be restricted again.
With the shift of customer behavior towards online ordering, restaurants may want to consider ghost kitchen concepts for their business in 2021. A dining space that focuses solely on fulfilling online orders for delivery, ghost kitchens are an excellent way to reduce low overhead costs, such as chairs, tables, and staff, as they won’t be necessary for operation. Restauranteurs will also not need to invest in a fancy storefront; since ghost kitchens operate only for online orders and delivery, they can be in a low-key location, resulting in reduced rent. Ghost kitchens further prove to be a budget-friendly option due to reduced tech costs, as another company provides all facilities and technology. 2020 was hard on the restaurant industry. Ghost kitchens offer an opportunity to rebuild lost revenue and stay functional during potential lockdowns.
2020 may be over, but 2021 will see much of the after-effects of the past year. It’s crucial now more than ever for restaurateurs to invest in technology to safeguard their business and modernize for the future.
Are you looking to secure success for your business in 2021? Contact our experts at Touch Dynamic to learn more about our unparalleled line of restaurant POS hardware.