As a New Yorker in the restaurant and franchise business, I have seen the industry go through tough times over the past two years. From total closure to al fresco dining in winter, to mandatory “proof of vaccination” rules imposed on citizens. Some measures taken by the restaurant industry in response to the pandemic and government orders have resulted in many changes.
Optimistically, there have been innovative changes that will remain in place. The good news is that we are nearing the end of the pandemic and learning to live in a largely vaccinated society as customers return to restaurants in droves. One of the most forward-thinking initiatives is the restaurant industry’s adoption of technology in ways that many restaurateurs had not considered or even avoided before the global pandemic. There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many industries to go digital. The restaurant industry is no exception as it has turned to using technology by introducing digital menus and online ordering options to keep its business alive, to name a few- one.
Technology and innovation have helped and in some cases saved restaurants as they change the way they think about the overall customer experience. Many have thrived by staying connected and engaged with their customers through this new operating model and global mindset. From online ordering to self-service checkouts, contactless payment methods and home delivery, the restaurant industry could not afford to ignore the latest trends in the food industry if they were to remain relevant and competitive.
Here are six tech trends in the restaurant industry born out of the pandemic. I believe they are here to stay:
Before the pandemic hit the world, many restaurants were waiting for the right time to introduce online ordering options for their customers. However, the strict lockdown has forced the restaurant industry across the world to shut down its cafes, QSRs as well as catering services and move to digital ordering, payment and pick-up support.
Many online platforms have helped the restaurant industry to continue its business by collaborating with it. A study reveals that nearly one in three Americans use online food ordering systems once a week. They have introduced digital menus so customers can check what restaurants are offering.
Another dominant trend in the food industry is contactless payment. It’s not just about placing orders online, but also about receiving payments via smart cards, smartphones and smartwatches. Contactless payment initially gained momentum with the global food industry. However, the pandemic has given it a big boost in accelerating the industry from concept to scale.
It’s a more hygienic and safer way to place an order without personal interaction or cash handling. Plus, it’s a quick and convenient way to receive payment from customers for orders placed. Restaurants that want to stay competitive in the age of portable devices need to design plans that create digital payment methods for a better experience.
restaurant reservation software
For the full-service space, automating restaurant reservation schedules not only increases efficiency in times of ongoing labor challenges, but also conveys an updated image to your diners. In addition, it reduces the risk of overbooking or double booking. A short-staffed restaurant with busy employees often makes mistakes that disrupt a great customer experience. Therefore, reservation software reduces or eliminates the need to attend calls to reserve tables or assign employees to handle customers.
Drone food delivery systems
With the high cost of third-party delivery services, restaurant owners are looking for alternatives. Drone delivery in some parts of the country is starting to become popular. Automating the delivery process may eventually lead to some restaurants eliminating the existence of the delivery person altogether. With advances in technology, drones may soon completely replace drivers in providing fast, contactless delivery. Moreover, they can also film the surroundings and offer many avenues for marketing initiatives. Food delivery by drones would eliminate the cost of hiring delivery people and reduce the environmental effects caused by vehicles while reducing the need for expensive third-party services.
A new trend taking hold in the food industry is the use of website chatbots. Restaurants can easily create chatbots. They do not require a lot of investment and can easily be integrated into different communication media. When interacting with customers, a chatbox can:
- recommend dishes
- suggest food
- pair drink options
- process payments
- ask for feedback
- offer promotions
- announce events
- and even make jokes
To increase health security, air quality and purification enter the minds of some guests. As a result, restaurants are focusing on upgrading air purification systems to improve the air quality inside their restaurants. Some restaurants opt for filtration systems that trap pollutants and neutralize contaminants in the air. Although these concepts are still emerging in the restaurant industry, they are becoming an integral part of security and you can expect to see more of them as we continue to learn to live with the threat of viruses. These air purification measures are in addition to customer expectations that staff regularly and thoroughly sanitize the restaurant before serving meals.
My “take away meals”
As technology changes everything from the customer experience to the ordering process to the functionality of kitchens, restaurants must continue to evolve, innovate and monitor consumer trends if they hope to survive and thrive. Embracing the use of technology and digital solutions as a way to stay competitive is undoubtedly here today and the future of our business.