Jeremy and Tim talk about all things mobile ordering and payment. Tim started GoTab.io well before the pandemic so he has tons of wisdom to share. GoTab launched in 2016 as a code on the receipt for mobile payment of restaurant tabs (in 2018 it became a QR code). The idea started when co-Founder Tim McLaughlin co-opened his first restaurant and brewery in 2015, a passion project in the works for many years.
Join Jeremy and Savneet for a wide ranging conversation about the history of the POS in restaurants and what Savneet and his team are doing to change the face of modern POS at PAR. POS Systems | Restaurant Point of Sale Solutions | Hardware (partech.com)
The COVID-19 pandemic has enormously accelerated certain trends in restaurant technology – particularly those that relate to the health and safety of customers and staff.
The surge in demand for contactless ordering and payment options is an obvious example. But while such technologies as digital menus, wallets, and QR codes have rapidly become familiar, such as the pace of change that even they may soon be overtaken by biometrics.
If you’ve ever had the misfortune to wait in line at an international airport, you’ll be familiar with the main biometric applications, such as –
• Fingerprint readers
• Iris and facial recognition technology
And these are also increasingly being used across the payments industry to offer rapid, secure, and contactless payments.
Facial recognition technology, in particular, not only offers a quick, contactless, and safe experience, it also enhances security.
Traditional 4 digit PINs are not required. Nor is it necessary to wait for a one-time code or token to be sent (or not) to a customer’s cell phone.
These considerations alone should be enough to make biometrics worth adopting by any business. And a number of restaurant POS systems already offer them for this reason.
But there’s far more to biometrics than just safety and security.
Used with creativity and imagination, these technologies can also offer diners a personalized and much more enjoyable experience, while at the same time helping businesses build valuable customer loyalty.
Iris/facial scanners and fingerprint readers are already in use in many American workplaces as a way of monitoring employees’, identity, attendance, and time-keeping. And they can be a valuable time and cost saver for management – particularly those running smaller businesses.
More specifically to restaurants, biometric technologies can help with food safety by restricting access to kitchens and refrigerated storage areas, and recording exactly who has been in them, and when, and what they did afterwards.
For better or worse, in the digital age, it’s no longer enough to offer the prompt service of a quality meal.
Customers are increasingly demanding a personalized experience, to be made to feel special.
Until now it’s been time-consuming and frankly uneconomical for many businesses to seek to meet this demand. But biometrics may now be coming to the rescue.
Imagine using facial recognition technology so that opted-in customers can be immediately recognized and logged as they enter your establishment, so that your bar and waiting staff can immediately get to work preparing their favorite cocktail or appetizer.
Facial or fingerprint recognition linked to a customer profile can also notify chefs of special dietary requirements, birthdays, anniversaries, or other special occasions.
The objective, always, is to use the technology to make the customer feel welcome and specially appreciated, just as the old-fashioned Maitre D’ of a high-end gourmet establishment might do for his regulars.
Industry surveys suggest that a significant proportion of both customers and restaurant owners are still reluctant to embrace biometric technologies.
But this is likely to change rapidly.
The COVID pandemic has brought many changes to customer attitudes that will probably prove permanent.
And the constant battle against fraud means that the use of biometrics was in any case likely to become normal and widely accepted in the payment card industry.
That said, as discussed above, these new technologies also offer considerable opportunities to enhance the experience of customers who are becoming ever more demanding.
And it is those restaurants that embrace biometrics, rather than regarding them as a necessary evil, that will prosper in the post-COVID era.
Like almost all aspects of the industry, QSR restaurant technology has faced significant challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sales have fallen dramatically, as customers have been subjected to stay at home orders and outlets severely restricted in their indoor capacities.
That said, the pandemic has also produced some profitable opportunities for those businesses that have been flexible and open to new ways of doing things.
For obvious reasons of safety, the pandemic has led to a surge in the demand for online ordering, curbside pickup, drive-thru, and delivery options.
And there’s evidence that the increasing availability of these options has led to a greater use of quick-service restaurants by the over 60s, and higher income and better educated sectors of the population.
Another direct impact of COVID-19 has been the move towards contactless ordering and, in particular, the increasing use of QR codes to provide customers with digital menus.
It’s worth noting, though, that QR codes can offer far more than just menus. This is a relatively new and rapidly developing element in QSR restaurant technology and well worth keeping an eye on in 2021 and beyond.
Economic recovery as the pandemic comes under control may slow some of these trends. But it’s unlikely. Customers who have got used to the new ways of doing things are unlikely to want to revert to the 2019 norm.
And contactless ordering and payment methods, in particular, are only likely to increase in popularity.
Mobile and in-car apps are already surging in popularity with QSR customers, allowing for order ahead and rapid curbside pickups, as well as contact-less and cashier-less payment facilities.
Safety, of course, has been one of the main recent drivers of this trend. But even as the pandemic subsides it is likely to continue because of the fast and frictionless experience it offers. Remember the industry statistic that some 90% of customers expect to wait no more than 10 minutes for food they have ordered ahead using a mobile app.
Making sure your website, mobile app, and restaurant POS systems are fully integrated to allow for digital ordering and contactless payments is an essential first step.
And the creative use of QR codes can greatly enhance the effectiveness of digital menus, promote special offers, discounts, and even integrate with your loyalty program.
But it’s important to remember that your staff are also likely to be outside taking orders on their handheld tablets. A fast, reliable, and payment card industry (PCI) secure Wi-Fi service is therefore essential to the provision of a frictionless customer experience.
Finally, be aware that the financial implications of the pandemic are likely to be long-lasting and far-reaching.
All projections are that household budgets are going to remain stretched thin for some time. And that restaurants of all sectors will increasingly be seen as a luxury rather than an everyday purchase.
So, many household name brand QSRs are now promoting special offers such as family meals, free delivery, happy hours (easily done with QR codes), and “build your own” bundles.
And in these circumstances, the businesses that will survive and prosper will be those that offer exceptional value – something which is not defined by price alone.
We did it!
The Restaurant Technology Guys have made the list of the top restaurant industry blogs to follow in 2021.
ZoomShift’s annual list puts RTG in the #17 spot.
RTG joins the ranks of other popular restaurant industry blogs, such as:
- Foodable Network
- The Restaurant Manifesto
- And more.
Even before the advent of COVID-19, contactless restaurant technology was rapidly disrupting the traditional operating methods of the industry.
But the pandemic has undoubtedly accelerated the process, and many of the changes it has brought are probably now irreversible.
The good news is that contactless technologies are relatively simple and inexpensive to implement. And they can make a huge difference to the efficiency and profitability of your business.
For obvious reasons, customers are now extremely wary of handling old-fashioned printed menus, no matter how diligent staff may be about sanitizing after each service.
And disposable paper menus are a labor-intensive and only partly effective solution.
Fortunately, though, technology has the answer.
It’s now simple to post digital menus on your website, social media platforms or restaurant app, which customers can access from their own devices and from any location.
And to allow contactless on-premise ordering, it’s now easy to generate and program your own unique QR code from a number of website providers. At first sight they’re just an abstract jumble of monochrome symbols. But when scanned with a phone or iPad, they’re immediately transformed into digital menus.
As a restaurant, you can now easily post your QR codes at the entrance to your premises and on tables, enabling customers to view them without any physical contact at all.
Integrate your digital menus with your restaurant POS, and you can have a completely contactless ordering and payment system. And while it’s true that some customers may for the time being require education in the use of QR codes with a consequent extra demand on your staff, this need will surely reduce in the months to come.
AI and machine learning technologies are rapidly transforming the operations of many industries, and no restaurant seeking to survive and prosper in the post-COVID world can afford to ignore them.
Currently, the principal uses of AI for restaurants are as set out below. But this technology is by definition evolving day by day, and it’s difficult to predict what it may become capable of even within the next year or so.
What is certain is that the sooner you begin to explore its benefits the better you will be placed in an ever more competitive market.
The rapid rise in online ordering has also spawned a new generation of increasingly sophisticated virtual assistants and chatbots, which are now able to assist customers in their choices of dish and beverages and the placing of their orders.
The latest machine-learning enabled versions of this technology are also now able to guide customers on their choices based on their expressed preferences.
But perhaps the future of the restaurant business is nowhere more strikingly demonstrated than in the rapid advance of waiting and kitchen robots.
“Pepper”, for example, is a Japanese designed robot waiter that can take and process customer orders, assist with menu selections and accept contactless payments through its handheld tablet. And Pepper’s AI and machine learning capabilities mean that it becomes daily more sophisticated in its responses to queries.
Meanwhile, in the kitchen, robots such as “Flippy” and “Moley”, are already able to prepare, cook and plate a surprising range of ingredients and dishes.
Self-service kiosks are already a familiar feature in some large chain outlets, but they are also likely to develop rapidly with the implementation of AI.
Experiments are already underway, for example, in the use of face recognition technology to remember previous customers and the order preferences thereby speeding up the whole service process.
Some of these developments may still look like science fiction, and it is of course uncertain precisely how they will develop.
But what is certain is that AI and machine learning will accelerate an already hectic pace of change; and that no restaurant will be immune from its effects.