Restaurants have to operate more efficiently than ever to eke out profits in the current economy. Having the capacity to offer automated, fast payments to vendors and employees alike can give a restaurant leverage – potentially enabling it to secure deals with vendors in exchange for early payments, as well as earning loyalty from staff who know they will get paid promptly after a shift. Beyond that, automated payment capabilities can help a restaurant operate more nimbly by responding quickly to shifts in supply. Do your systems enable you to pay people on-demand? At a time when a restaurant needs to use every tool at its disposal, the capability can deliver a competitive advantage.
As restaurants adopt more technology – out of necessity if not for a desire for greater efficiency – restaurant service is coming to mean something different. Earlier this year, Datassential predicted that human service would become more of a premium offering, with a more obvious human touch expected at higher-end restaurants. But the line between technology and human-delivered service is likely to be hazier for everyone else. As you consider new front-of-house tech, retain the human touch by asking if it can elevate the service you offer – through faster and easier payments, and menu items and targeted promotions supported by individual customer data as opposed to broad assumptions.
Could you benefit from online payment – not the customer-facing kind, but the kind used at the back of the house to pay the wide range of suppliers keeping your business stocked? As much as technology has introduced speed and efficiency at the front of the house, for many restaurants, back-of-house operations continue to be stuck in the past, relying on paper processes and manual management. By introducing digital invoicing and payment, you can bring greater precision to your inventory management and use scarce labor more efficiently. Talk to Team Four/Value Four if you need guidance to either start or refine your back-of-house financial management processes.
If you’re struggling with labor right now, are there front-of-house tasks that can be offloaded to technology? Consider each step of the guest journey. In your dining room, can you encourage guests to use a QR code to view your menu, place a customized order and, later in the meal, order refills or dessert? Off-premise, can a customer just as easily navigate your site or app with a minimum of scrolling? Do you make it possible for them to make substitutions or additions? Implementing technology to make ordering and payment more seamless, as well as to automatically route orders to your kitchen, can greatly ease the burden on any front-of-house staff (and help you turn tables/orders more quickly too).
At a time when restaurant operators are scrambling to attract and retain staff, every little tool designed to make restaurant jobs worthwhile can help. One such tool is an on-demand payment app that can give employees instant access to the wages they have earned that day. A number of large brands have signed on to use on-demand payment systems including Branch, DailyPay and Instant. Beyond immediate payment of wages, an on-demand payment app might be used to distribute tips or bonuses, as well as to provide financial management tools to employees. As a result, they can help lighten the load on restaurant managers too.
Sure, the ability to pay for an order without touching a credit card keypad is appealing during a pandemic. But offering these payments provides other critical benefits to your business. They can integrate with your loyalty program to automatically track not only a guest’s visits but their specific tastes, while also expediting payments and table turnover – a needed benefit at a time when dining rooms have limited capacity. They are also more secure. As the Restaurant Technology Guys report, when a customer pays via Apple or Google Pay, their credit card information is not shared on a restaurant’s system – and therefore wouldn’t be accessed in the case of a data breach.
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.