Imagine not having to touch your credit card or mobile phone to make a payment. That’s the reality for a number of restaurants and retailers in the Pasadena, Calif. area who recently launched PopID’s facial recognition payment technology – and pandemic-related anxiety about contacting various surfaces may create more demand for such technology. After customers register an account with PopID, they can visit a restaurant and the system will scan their face, which will bring up their past orders, loyalty points and stored payment details. While drive-thru and walk-up kiosks will still require a customer to touch a screen for now, tableside orders and payments can be completely touch-free.
When Boston-area Kowloon Restaurant had to adapt its 1,200-seat restaurant to new operating requirements for COVID-19, it got creative – with technology and with the experience it decided to offer guests. It adopted a new online payment system that allows people to start a drinks tab, view menus, order food, pay, tip and even ask the restaurant to wrap leftovers. It also converted its large parking lot into a drive-in movie theater, which gives guests an old-school, carhop-style experience while minimizing contact with staff. How can tech help you change the experience you’re able to offer guests right now?
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.
In case it wasn’t already clear pre-pandemic, off-premise dining isn’t going anywhere. Since third-party ordering poses ample challenges for operators it’s important to entice customers to order directly from you. Have you thought about how to encourage them to do that in the coming months? You might try incentives like filling every takeout order with a coupon good for a discount off their first direct online order from you, or offering some extra value for signing up for your in-house app (if you want to build your own ordering app, here is one option that may help https://bit.ly/36maBNz). Beyond that, make it as easy as possible for customers to order from you directly. Ensure your business information is accurate and up-to-date – particularly with adjusted hours – on Google. Your ordering button and menu links should be visible as soon as someone loads your webpage. Toast also suggests you find ways to simply make it more interesting to come to you directly – from including a personal thank-you note or small Instagrammable memento in each takeout bag, to selling special merchandise, to offering rotating promotions like Taco Tuesday to-go packages or EBTV (Everything But the Vodka) take-home Bloody Mary kits.
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.
While technology had been making sweeping changes to the restaurant industry before the pandemic, expect it to play a transformative role as we emerge from it. Many of the systems and tools that had been nice-to-haves a couple of months ago could now provide the limited physical contact needed to keep your employees and guests safe – and your business running. This doesn’t mean investing in new bells and whistles but it does mean finding ways to maximize the technology you currently have and any additional tools that can be used for free. As the National Restaurant Association’s new report Covid-19 Reporting Guidance advises, update your website and use basic text messages to communicate with guests and staff. Use your email list and social media to provide up-to-date information about your current hours, menu changes, reservations and other information that may be helpful, such as approximate wait times. Of course, contactless payment systems, automated ordering functionality and mobile ordering apps can all help too. Be in touch with your POS system provider to ensure you are fully using all of your system’s functionality and any additional features or support your provider is offering right now. Bo Peabody, a tech entrepreneur who helped create the reopening guidelines for Georgia restaurants, told the Spoon that POS companies might soon take such actions as giving restaurants the ability to add a QR code to their check – a means for a guest to pay for a meal with a quick, contactless scan of their phone. (Paytronix and Sevenrooms recently announced new contactless order and payment capabilities, and the restaurant tech company Presto is offering free contactless dining kits for restaurants while supplies last. The company says the kits can be set up in an hour – and without any contracts or costs.)
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?
Now that off-premise dining is the only way to dine on restaurant food for most of the country, technology companies are scrambling to provide solutions for restaurants that, up to now, did not have fully developed off-premise service models. (Even more established companies like Toast are offering their customers credits on software fees, along with other offers.) Often, the new tech solutions on offer also come with discounts or other incentives to help restaurants quickly shift their service models and, at the same time, streamline some of the back-of-house functions to help support them. The Spoon recently assembled a rundown of a number of new tech services that may be of use to you in serving the public and managing your restaurant right now. (https://thespoon.tech/heres-a-rundown-of-restaurant-tech-deals-available-to-struggling-businesses/ )