If your restaurant didn’t offer contactless payments before the coronavirus shutdown, it should now.
The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for businesses in all market sectors. And probably none have been hit harder than those in the hospitality and restaurant industries.
Personal interactions between customers and servers have always been regarded as essential in this sector, albeit that modern restaurant technology has been rapidly changing that traditional business model.
As government-mandated restrictions begin to be relaxed, businesses are naturally anxious to open their doors and generate revenue as soon as possible. But more far-reaching changes to the old ways of operating will be essential, and customer behavior in the aftermath of the pandemic is also hard to predict.
So the immediate future’s going to be challenging. No doubt about it.
Implementing the following three examples of restaurant technologies, especially contactless payments, should be top of mind when you’re getting ready to start rebuilding your business.
For some reason, contactless payments have been slower to take off in the United States than in other developed companies.
But this can be expected to change rapidly in response to the pandemic.
Research suggests that the COVID-19 virus may remain viable on some surfaces, including cash, credit cards, and restaurant POS terminals, for several days.
Contactless payments, therefore, have obvious advantages in terms of keeping your customers and staff safe – as is your legal duty. They may go a long way towards building customer trust and confidence in your establishment, which will be essential to your survival and success.
Pandemic apart, contactless payments are also popular with customers, especially younger ones, for the speed and convenience they offer. And applications such as Apple Pay and Google Pay now reassure their users of advanced security technologies.
Most major restaurant POS providers now offer contactless payment integrations and it’s definitely an option you should make available to your customers.
But the advantages of contactless technology extend much further than just contactless payments.
The COVID-19 virus is as likely to survive on the surface of traditional printed menus as anywhere else, and these will inevitably come into contact with numerous pairs of potentially infectious hands during every session.
Of course, they can and should be sanitized between every serving, but the need for this time-consuming and stress-inducing task can be reduced by using contactless digital menus.
Using this technology, customers can access your menu, including any upsells or special offers, on their phone and order and pay either for curbside pick-up or to eat in-house. And they can do all of this securely, without any contact with credit cards or printed receipts, either from their table or before leaving home.
As a supplement or alternative to cell phone technology, you can also make use of in-house digital menu boards brought to customers’ tables by servers. This type of restaurant technology can also now make use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to facilitate and enhance customers’ drive-thru experience – likely to be a significant element of many outlets’ business in the aftermath of the pandemic.
But whether they’re eating in or at home, customers appreciate the ease and convenience of online ordering systems, and the opportunity to browse menus at leisure. These systems also allow you as restauranteur to present your best dishes in the most attractive way possible, to offer upsells and discounts and, perhaps most importantly, to build a relationship of trust with your customers.
For all these reasons, there’s good evidence that customers tend to spend more when ordering online.
And this welcome effect can be much enhanced by using technology to develop an effective loyalty program.
A large percentage of restaurant revenue is driven by repeat business; those customers who are in the habit of dining out once, twice or even several times a week.
These customers have had their habits interrupted and perhaps even broken by several months of lockdown and the challenge for restaurants will be to persuade them to take it up again as quickly as possible.
One of the best ways to encourage this will be to make use of an existing or new loyalty program a process now made easier than ever by developments in restaurant technology.
Today’s restaurant customer loyalty programs, integrating seamlessly with your restaurant POS system, now enable you to collect and collate all relevant customer data on menu choices and spending habits, as well as more personal information, such as birthdays and anniversaries.
With this wealth of information comes the opportunity to market directly to your customers. Carefully targeted, segmented or personalized promotions can then be run via text, e-mail or social media, to make the best possible use of your marketing dollars.
With customer numbers likely to remain lower than usual for some time, and with profit margins correspondingly tighter than ever, this personal one to one approach will be vital in generating business and profits.
Fortunately, these restaurant technology tools are now readily available to make reopening your restaurant not only possible but relatively simple.
Restaurant technology was already evolving very rapidly, and the pace of its development will likely accelerate in response to the pandemic. Exciting new applications are coming on stream all the time. But the three detailed above will give you a great start in getting your business going again.