You know the appeal of technology that enables touch-free interactions at the front of the house. But increasingly there are touch-free options that can help you manage the back of the house as well. If you have already graduated from manual, paper-and-pen checklists to tablets, this takes things a step further by allowing you to use an app to carry out voice-activated, touch-free, time-efficient inventory counting. On Dec. 8, the National Restaurant Association presented a webinar about this topic in conjunction with VoiceStar.ai and Orderscape.com if you’d like to learn more about the technology.
As we wind down the year (and one for the history books at that), take a moment to review where you are as a business – and what changes need to happen for it to keep pace with the rapidly changing times. As the Spoon reported recently, digital sales will comprise 54 percent of all quick-service and limited-service restaurant sales by 2025, according to research from Incisiv. That’s a 70 percent leap from where we were before the pandemic. If your restaurant has been delaying the adoption of tech – particularly to help streamline guest ordering and fulfillment – it’s no longer a nice-to-have but a must-have feature that will help your restaurant survive. Talk to Team Four about how you can take small steps to adopt technology to bring more efficiencies to order management in 2021.
From tech-enabled, touch-free food pickups to streamlined mobile ordering, front-of-house technology tends to garner the most headlines. But how you use technology in the back of house is likely even more important – and should be a key area of focus for operators in the next year. It’s all about efficiency. Your back-of-house systems are the foundation of your front-of-house success: They can help you monitor your inventory; build, price and adjust your menu effectively; place orders based on available supply; and predict demand to help you adjust staffing levels. Identify an area of waste in your back-of-house operation and there is likely technology available that can help you measure, monitor and address it before it becomes a serious concern. And at a time as challenging as the one restaurants are experiencing now, every little bit of efficiency helps.
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.
Well before COVID-19, restaurants had been moving toward the adoption of technology that could support increased off-premise sales. Now, however, such technology is being perceived in the industry as critical to survival in the near term and as a means of becoming pandemic-proof in the future. The investment community is backing up the idea that the restaurant industry needs to make rapid, technology-supported change: AgFunder News reports that while investment into many sectors has slowed while people wait to see how the pandemic plays out, that hasn’t been the case for restaurant technology, where a number of multimillion-dollar fundings and acquisitions have taken place in recent weeks. Restaurants looking to make changes may be more apt to find – or be able to negotiate – deals with tech suppliers right now as a result. Nation’s Restaurant News reports that a number of providers of services including online ordering and delivery, curbside pickup and food safety have been offering reduced rates and waiving startup fees. Just use caution when considering nascent service providers entering the field. Screen offers carefully to ensure businesses have the financial backing and expertise to deliver on contracted services and that you won’t be surprised by high fees a few months down the line.
The pandemic has underlined the need for restaurants to perfect their off-premise dining experience – and embrace technology that can help them accomplish that. Now is a good time to observe what solutions early adopters are implementing as part of that effort – and what may or may not be feasible to try in other concepts. Burger King, for one, recently unveiled a restaurant design concept to streamline the collection of food. Restaurant Technology News reports that in the new model, which will be built in select cities next year, customers who order via mobile app can notify the restaurant upon their arrival and get a designated parking spot, or collect food from a coded food locker at the restaurant. The most noticeable change in the model is a taller (but smaller) restaurant footprint – the kitchen and dining area are suspended over an expanded number of drive-thru lanes, and a conveyer belt system delivers food to the vehicles waiting below.
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.
It seems like just a short time ago that ordering via a touchscreen at your table – or scrolling through a wine list or viewing other menu-related content on a communal tablet at a fine dining restaurant – was considered futuristic. Now that contactless is king and shared touchscreens are tools consumers may aim to avoid (unless they have hand sanitizer nearby), where are we likely to see tableside innovation? On a recent Foodable podcast, Shaun Shankel, CEO of FreshTechnology and ToGoTechnologies, expressed optimism in QR codes as mobile payment vehicles. Already in use to help guests at some restaurants view menus during the pandemic, QR codes are likely to gain momentum as a tool that enables a touch-free experience at a restaurant. They’re another reason to ensure all content you create for customers – whether it’s your menu, your background story, or behind-the-scenes videos you produce – is easy to view, interact with, and (where applicable) pay for via a customer’s personal device.