Despite the current toll on the restaurant and food industry, businesses and patrons alike are banding together during this time. Stories of restaurants donating meals to support healthcare workers and first responders, locals raising money to keep their favorites afloat, and busy curbside-pickup lines show the resilience of this industry. However, there are some challenging days ahead and it will be interesting to see the long term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the restaurant industry.
Technology adoption has allowed industries to innovate, creating greater restaurant survival rates in the face of modern-day challenges. Here are a few examples of how technology is changing the restaurant industry:
Contactless payment and mobile wallets have been gaining traction in recent years, but this technology has become even more appealing in the past few months. Customers can pay with their mobile devices or tap-to-pay with a contactless credit card, which uses near field communication (NFC). While originally developed for ease of use and efficiency, it may have a bigger role in future restaurant developments with the current emphasis on reducing physical contact.
Food Ordering Kiosks
Restaurant self-service technology allows customers to order through tablets or kiosks. These devices encourage customers to interact with the menu and customize their order.
Created to optimize the ordering process, there was some concern in the fast-food industry that self-serve kiosks would take jobs from workers. However, kiosks cannot replace the benefits of a personal recommendation or a friendly smile. Instead, restaurants can utilize a combined approach, making ordering more efficient while freeing workers for food preparation and streamlined customer service interactions.
Restaurants such as Chilis, Outback Steakhouse, Olive Garden and Applebees have also implemented tablet technology to order food and make credit card payments at the table. Some even provide games for a small fee. Data from the National Restaurant Association and other surveys have revealed that customers appreciate the convenience of touch screen ordering and ultimately increase their order and check sizes due to customizable digital upselling opportunities. These self-service kiosks also allow diners to order more food and pay at their convenience without relying on server availability.
Ordering Online for Pickup
Another option that businesses have adopted is online ordering with food available for pickup. Easily navigable mobile apps and websites can make or break the customer ordering experience. Even restaurants who do not usually offer online ordering are currently rethinking their strategies. If their only other choice is to close the interior dining room entirely, curbside pickup becomes the only means for continuing operations.
Mobile apps are not only beneficial for ordering meals, however. They can also be useful tools for building customer loyalty. Between offering coupons and tracking points from transactions, customers can earn rewards and cash in their prizes for appetizers, entrees and more. Many businesses also offer a free item as a birthday gift in exchange for signing up for their communications. Mobile apps allow them to track this customer information as well.
Food Delivery Services
Food delivery services like UberEats, Grubhub, and DoorDash are another restaurant industry trend that has changed the way that restaurants and fast-food chains operate. These food delivery apps allow businesses who do not have their own delivery service to branch out in new ways. Additionally, with dine-in options temporarily suspended, delivery has helped keep restaurants in business. Regulars and newcomers alike can order, pay, and track their delivery using an app on their mobile device. Thanks to delivery drivers, this option allows restaurant goers to enjoy their favorites and support local businesses, all while sheltering in place.
Home Meal Prep Boxes
Subscription boxes are a growing trend in e-commerce. With the increased reliance on food and grocery delivery, food subscription boxes may become more popular than ever. Those looking to improve the quality of their menu can benefit from prepared meals.
Food subscription boxes are also a simple way to begin cooking from home, especially for those on a tight schedule. Choosing to cook a few meals each week in this way reduces the necessity to search for recipes and go to the store for specific ingredients. Instead, the ingredients and meal plans come in the box and can be personalized based on subscribers’ preferences.
Custom Software Solutions for Restaurants
What if restaurants were looking to develop their own software solutions? Many are finding that it is costly and inefficient to manage multiple vendors for needed services. As a result, they are ready and willing to invest in new technology.
Forbes, commenting on The National Restaurant Association’s 2019 State of the Restaurant Industry report, states that:
- 70% of quick-service restaurant (QSR) operators planned to improve or expand their “customer-facing, service-based technology.”
- 57% planned to increase resources dedicated to back-of-the-house technology (such as point-of-sale systems).
- 41% are moving toward implementing customer facing technology such as ordering kiosks
Restaurants can improve their services by developing a customized system. Examples of features include:
- Scheduling capabilities – manage employee shifts, track billable hours and optimize payroll
- Data analytics – monitor restaurant data, such as peak hours of operation and most popular items.
- Manage inventory – track supplies and ingredients to optimize shipments and place orders so that you never run out or waste inventory.
Custom platforms allow restaurants to integrate their digital tools and disparate systems all in one place. These solutions can deliver a powerful ROI by reducing inefficiencies and decreasing the costs of maintaining multiple vendors.
How Technology Can Change Your Business
Whether you are in the restaurant and dining industry or are looking to implement technology to optimize your business, 7T is ready to help. We have extensive experience providing custom software development services, assisting businesses with data governance and data lake creation, cloud and systems integration and mobile app development.
Our team is poised to learn about the unique challenges of your business and create a customized solution. To connect with us, contact 7T today.