If there is one area of tech to focus on this year, you’ll be in a good spot by smoothing out the process your guests must go through when placing orders and making payment – and finding low-touch, low-interaction ways of doing so. According to a new report from Oracle about consumer expectations for restaurant dining, 73 percent of restaurant patrons would like to reduce their use of cash, 49 percent would like to minimize their human interaction, 46 percent want to settle their bill on a mobile app, and 71 percent wouldn’t mind if restaurants, at the time of online booking, communicated a limit to the amount of time guests could keep a reserved table. This is good news for operators struggling to keep labor. What aspects of your guest experience might be better managed by outsourcing them to tech this year?
While restaurant technology had been steadily gaining ground before Covid, it appears to have changed many processes for good. During a recent online discussion presented by the National Restaurant Association, industry leaders weighed in on the most important tech-enabled shifts that have become permanent in the past two years. Among them are the online cashless ecosystem for restaurants – it’s now a customer expectation to be able to order via an app or a delivery service, no cash needed. Flexibility to order/collect via multiple channels has also become critical – and technology is key to helping your staff juggle all of those streams simultaneously. Finally, tech continues to fine-tune our capability to order and pay at the table. (So despite the pushback that QR codes get from some guests, the flexibility and speed they offer operator and guest alike may give them staying power.)
At a time when operators may feel removed from the customers they serve, technology is what can create the personal experiences that help customers feel appreciated (and instill loyalty). According to Technomic’s 2020 Foodservice Technology Consumer Trend Report, 36 percent of consumers say they expect a restaurant app to be able to save their payment information and 39 percent expect the app to save their previous orders and present their preferred menu items. While it makes for a speedy, smooth ordering and checkout process, it’s not only helpful to consumers; it also feeds your knowledge about your customer and lets you know what they like and when they like it – so when you’re marketing to them, you have a clear sense of exactly what will entice them to return and when.
Technology that enables you to transact business in a contact-free way can help you send a message to guests that you value their safety. Beyond offering contactless payments – a recent Mastercard study found that 74 percent of respondents plan to use contactless payments even after the pandemic is over – restaurant operators are increasingly posting QSR codes on tables and at facility entrances to help guests connect to their menu via smartphone. Not only can having a QSR code help you minimize menu wipe-downs, but it is also easy to get one via any number of websites that generate the codes for free.
Some of the touch-free technology that is currently allowing for safer payments is providing some side benefits too. The tech firm PopID, which developed technology allowing consumers to link their face to a form of payment, has integrated thermal imaging into its facial recognition technology, Pymts.com reports. As a result, it can take the temperature of anyone entering a business – and perhaps give restaurant guests some peace of mind that the people around them are healthy. The California burger chain CaliBurger, which operates six locations and two D.C.-based food trucks, is beginning to roll out the technology.
Making the transition to cash-free payment was among the first steps restaurant operators took to minimize the spread of COVID-19 in recent weeks. For many, it may make sense to stay that way after the pandemic is over – if their laws allow it. In addition to protecting a business against contamination and theft, going cashless can enable greater guest spending and also help develop your loyalty program and the customer data you collect – assets that are critical to businesses right now. These weeks, challenging and disruptive as they are, can be a time to scrutinize the technology you are using so you know what adjustments to make as times improve. What tech is helping to streamline your sales and business processes right now and what is slowing you down?