5 Ways to Digitize Your Restaurant
On May 1st, restaurants all over the U.S. started to partially reopen after months of excluding dine-in orders from their services. However even as social distancing mandates cease and businesses can operate at higher capacity again, people still worry about getting too close to others, touching often-used surfaces like door handles and card readers, and ultimately generating a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Digital advances are coming out, or simply getting utilized more widely, in response to these common fears. Restaurants all over the country are using to these five methods to encourage social distancing even as COVID-19 restrictions start lifting.
1. Digital menus
One of the many items that restaurants need to sanitize more often is their menus. So many people handle them in one day that you can either clean them between each customer or throw them out after one use. However this quickly becomes wasteful and costly, as well as risky for the waitstaff handling them. Luckily, you can make your menus entirely digital now.
This can either mean moving it entirely online or revitalizing your menu board. Putting your menu up on your website has several advantages, such as improving SEO so potential customers can more easily find your page when they’re searching for something to eat, and also allowing customers to search for food on their mobile device without touching anything in the restaurant. Online menus are also easier to update and change; if you want to rearrange items to promote certain dishes, update pricing, add pictures or change anything else, an online menu lets you quickly and easily do it across all your platforms. With the right Point of Sale technology, you can sync your menu to every in-store device immediately. If you decide to partner with a third party delivery platform, your menu is already online and easily transferrable to the app.
You can also replace your in-store menu board with a digital one. These are just as easy to read, update and change as the one on your website. Not only does this reduce waste but it also protects customers and workers alike without sacrificing readability or profit.
2. Delivery apps
During quarantine, restaurants started placing emphasis on takeout and delivery since they could no longer generate profit from dine-in services, which typically keeps restaurants afloat. Despite self-isolation restrictions lifting in many states, people remain concerned about leaving their houses until they can be sure this pandemic is truly over; thus delivery continues to thrive right now.
Many restaurants have partnered with third party delivery apps to boost business but some have taken this a step further: for example New York Chicken & Gyro, based in Southern California with two pop-up locations nearby, has seen business slow around 40% since this all began. However, online ordering is doing better than ever. They’ve partnered with multiple platforms and even created one of their own, inspired to do this in large part because third party apps take a hefty commission fee out of each order. They’re already equipped with advanced Point of Sale technology that instantly receives online orders, so they had the systems in place to start this venture. Their app, which works on both Android and iOS, only takes pickup orders thus they still use apps like Grubhub and Uber Eats for delivery services.
New York Chicken & Gyro estimates that they’ve seen a 25% boost in sales via their online platforms. They invented an app to supplement profit and other restaurants can certainly follow their lead to meet that bottom line. Learn more about how advanced technology can help your restaurant.
3. Contactless payment
During this pandemic, restaurants needed to figure out how to make payment safer for everyone. It’s the one thing everyone has to do and barring self-checkout, it requires essential workers to come in direct contact with every single customer. This presents a serious issue because sharing money or cards has a massive potential to spread of germs, as cashiers and other restaurant workers process tons of payments throughout the day.
More and more restaurants have implemented various methods of contactless payment to eliminate these close interactions. Near-field communication, also known as NFC or more colloquially “tap to pay,” has gotten increasingly popular in recent years. Various banks make their cards compatible with this feature. Alternatively customers can use Apple Pay, Samsung Pay or similar methods that allow them to simply wave their card or phone close to the point of sale terminal to process payment. Cards and money never have to change hands at all.
4. AI technology
Conversational AI has become more common for businesses to use during customer interactions. Restaurants use Artificial Intelligence in many different ways, but one of the most common is fielding customer concerns, questions and requests without clogging lines of communication and taking up employees’ valuable time.
Customers initially chat on your website or talk on the phone with an AI bot, who can answer their questions, prompt more details and direct customers to different areas of the website which might answer their questions. If the AI can’t answer their question or address the concern, they’ll redirect the person to a real staff member who can better assist them. Using AI frees up your workers’ time so they can attend to other aspects of the business or lets you schedule fewer employees in a single shift. This saves money, especially in a time when COVID-19 makes doing so more important than ever.
5. Cloud kitchens
Cloud kitchens, alternatively known as ghost kitchens, have recently established themselves as a worthy addition to the food service industry. With the ongoing threat of COVID-19 making people afraid to go out and delivery services booming for the same reason, ghost kitchens are an effective way to ensure complete social distance between your staff and your customers. Learn more about what cloud kitchens are and how they work.
During quarantine, many restaurants operated like cloud kitchens anyway, barring dine-in and takeout services and operating exclusively on delivery. These “virtual restaurants” have no fixed location for customers to visit, requiring them to establish their own delivery services or partner with third party apps in order to serve their loyal customers. This was already an up and coming trend in the food service industry because business owners save money by not having to pay front-of-house staff. Additionally, they can rent out smaller spaces since they only need somewhere for the cooks to work. The entire restaurant experience is online for the customer.
As restaurants across the U.S. slowly build back to full service, digitizing aspects of the business can help maintain some social distance even as legal regulations on the matter relax. People are still worried about COVID-19 and a resurgence of the virus after nonessential services recommence, so reducing contact between customers and staff members within your restaurant shows that you have these concerns in mind and are working actively to assuage them. Implementing some or all of these digitization methods will help customers and employees feel safer in your restaurant and smooth the transition back into being a full service establishment.