Why Technology is a Super Hero in Restaurant Business for Pandemic and Post-pandemic Period
Before the world had known the word “coronavirus”, I turned out in the charming Swedish capital. Strolling around the city on Christmas Eve and gazing at the fabulously decorated shop windows, I came across a small Asian restaurant, where I saw a long queue of visitors through the window. As the dinner time was approaching, I decided not to look for another place to eat and stay, although I was prepared for the long wait.
Quite unexpectedly I got my order in approximately ten minutes! While enjoying the meal, I noticed that other clients got their dishes very promptly, despite the number of current visitors and the flow of the new ones.
Several years later I joined the digital marketing team at a software development company. One of my tasks was to describe one of our projects for the company’s portfolio. The solution was aimed at order processing automation, which would streamline order management for kitchen staff and speed up customer service. Imagine my surprise when I realized the client was the restaurant I had visited on that day in Stockholm. Intrigued by the coincidence, I checked their website to discover that during the pandemic they not only stayed afloat, but also expanded their presence to other cities, owing to the prompt adaptation to the new reality by means of technology. And partially thanks to milder anti-covid measures in the country but it’s a different story :)
Restaurant tech trends came to stay
During the pandemic the rules of the game for the restaurants were changing like the weather in the mountains: from total lockdowns to “takeaways only” or from “take terrace seats only” to imposition of the obligatory Covid passports for citizens. Business owners had no other choice but to abide by the offered rules and keep an eye to the changes, looking forward to the abolishment of the restrictions and the sweet moment when clients would come back to the empty restaurant halls. Therefore, restaurateurs faced a dilemma: whether to invest in solutions that would provide more agility and utterly transform such habitual and established processes, or do nothing, go with the flow and wait for the problem to be settled by itself.
Whatever the damage the pandemic caused — we have to admit that it gave a serious push to technology development in a wide range of spheres. Before the global pandemic started, many restaurateurs were skeptical about automation implementation in their businesses but with the Covid outbreak were forced to shift to digital mode. In the beginning of 2020 when restaurant goers were locked in their apartments, the only way to outreach to them was to reinvent the way of thinking about guest experience and reconfigure the existing processes.
Now it’s 2022 and we are nearing the end of the pandemic era: countries ease travel restrictions, mask regime is not mandatory any more, hotels and restaurants welcome visitors again, hoping that such an experience would never repeat again. However, during these years customers got used to restaurants bending over backwards to draw attention and acquire a loyal client, and it would be quite naive to believe that this trend would roll back or at least slow down.
In this regard let’s recall the tech solutions restaurateurs started utilizing to save the existing clientele and acquire the new:
Online Ordering & Delivery Apps
We already got used to various aggregators like FoodPanda, UberEats ets. and restaurant apps that allow scrolling the digital menu and order food in a few taps, with no necessity to give a call to a restaurant and explain which menu items you have chosen (unquestionable advantage for the introverts). App usage allows clients to monitor order processing in real-time: from the moment restaurant staff receives it, till a courier knocks the door. Integration with payment gateways (for in-app payment) and implementation of geolocation features (to track courier location) ensure a cool user experience and increase customer loyalty.
With your hand on heart confess: is cash your preferable way to proceed with payments? Using banknotes is neither hygienic, nor convenient, which induces the audience to switch to more quick and user-friendly payment methods. We are now so used to choosing how we would like to pay, that coming across the note “cash only” we are perplexed. Offer your clients the alternative: to pay with cash, card, smartphone or smartwatches — this step will ensure your flexibility and expand your audience.
Adoption of QR Codes
Crossing the threshold of a restaurant, we expect high-quality customer service and do not want to wait for a menu to be brought by a waiter (again, touching a menu that had been passed from hand to hand is not hygienic, the pandemic hasn’t said “goodbye” yet). Through QR codes, clients have quick access to the menu, can order and pay with minimum contact with restaurant staff. Additionally, QR-based ordering eliminates the possibility of human mistakes in order taking, which affects customer satisfaction.
Table Reservation Software
As in the case of food ordering, table reservation via phone becomes a thing of the past. People value their time and prefer to resolve day-to-day issues in the most efficient and quick way. Giving a call to the restaurant to book a table takes minutes (waiting for pick up, explaining the details of reservation etc.), when choosing the available time slot and proceeding with online reservation takes seconds. Specific reservations system also alleviates the workload for the restaurant staff, obliged to receive phone calls and write down the reservations in the notebook. Caesar-like staffers that do several things simultaneously, have a high risk to mix up reservations or create a problem of overbooking, which would disrupt guest experience. Automate the reservations process and save the nerve cells of your guests and motivation of your restaurant staff.
Almost each of us stood in the annoying line in a quick-service restaurant, waiting for an available cashier or even left unwilling to waste precious time. To speed up order processing and alleviate the staffers’ workload, more and more QSRs follow the trend of equipping their restaurants with self-order kiosks that give an opportunity to choose the menu items and pay for them in a contactless way.
Our portfolio also contains a project delivered to a global QSR chain. We developed a front-end component for self-service checkout kiosks to help our customer sustain customer engagement and simplify order processing.
Sitting in a restaurant full of visitors on Friday night, looking through a menu, a client may have questions considering the items or need recommendations. As we know, staffers are super-busy, and if the restaurant hall is full of visitors they are unable to dedicate much time to each, answering the questions. AI-powered chatbots come to the rescue here to ensure outstanding customer experience. Depending on their capabilities, they can interact with customers by suggesting dishes, recommending drinks, taking orders, processing payments and requesting feedback, which eases waiters’ workload while keeping clients engaged.
Customers got used to having a certain degree of control over their own dining experience, and this fact can no longer be ignored by the restaurateurs. If before 2020 restaurants could afford to postpone the adoption of technology in their businesses, the pandemic messed things up and forced them to reconsider future plans. Shifting to a new work format, prompt adaptation to the constantly changing rules — these processes became more agile with implementation of industry-specific solutions in the F & B sphere, which provides ample opportunities for further development and business growth.
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