If there is one thing common across almost every industry affected by the coronavirus pandemic, it is that of accelerated transformation at a relentless pace. It could be argued that the restaurant industry has been hit the hardest when it comes to stay-at-home orders and social distancing mandates; however, the resilience of the restaurant industry cannot be denied, and as restaurateurs shift their thinking from, “How am I going to survive?” to “How am I bringing my business out of this stronger than it was pre-COVID-19?” we see the emergence of a few key themes.
First and foremost is the strategic recalibration of quick service restaurant (QSR) and fine dining business models. According to the National Restaurant Association, the food service industry has encountered a shortfall of $80 billion and counting. Restaurateurs are pivoting to recoup the lowest level of sales seen in more than 35 years—for some, that’s the lowest sales seen in their lifetime of operating their business or restaurant chain.
But while total restaurant traffic in the United States has declined by 22%, digital and delivery orders have jumped by over 60%. This clearly points to the fact that consumers are not willing to give up the convenience and experience of a restaurant meal even when faced with the most challenging of barriers. In fact, the NDP Group’s preliminary findings suggest that restaurant digital orders are projected to triple in volume by the end of 2020.
For restaurateurs, this means evaluating your current restaurant technology, and what resources you’ll need to put in place that will help your business pivot towards the new norm. A significant part of that new norm will be the ability to accept digital orders and take contactless payments.
Illness Resurgence is Highly Likely
What was once considered normal might be a memory of the past, but cultivating something next to normal is the achievement of the future. It is anticipated that the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic will hit the United States this winter, and it is likely to hit harder than the first, arriving in tandem with flu season. It’s vital to set your QSR or fine dining restaurant up with the tools that will allow you to weather this storm, and any future storm related to COVID-19, other pandemics or disasters. Make sure that your restaurant technology stack includes functionalities like:
- SMS text messaging alerts to customers when orders are ready.
- Delivery dispatch and curbside pickup management to efficiently execute takeout and delivery.
- Contactless payments for curbside or at-the-door delivery.
- Gift card and loyalty program to grow the relationships that keeps customers coming back.
Arming your restaurant with the tools for seamless execution of digital orders and their delivery will position your business for success during the best—and most challenging—of times.
Lockdowns due to Illness May Become Commonplace
If Hong Kong was an example to the global community on how to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, they also hold a glimpse into life after business restrictions are lifted—and it’s not what most expect. One protracted lockdown is unlikely to be sufficient in suppressing the rapid spread of the virus. Rather, it can be anticipated in the United States, as demonstrated by Hong Kong, that there will be an ebb and flow of systematic lockdowns. As confirmed cases dwindle, restrictions will loosen and businesses will reopen. As cases begin to re-emerge, restrictions will tighten—all in efforts to not overwhelm our healthcare systems. In order to be successful, restaurants will have to be able to operate under these conditions.
Contactless Methods and Technology Will Ensure You’re Prepared
Consumer behavior has shown that there is still a demand for restaurant experiences during a pandemic world, though those experiences may look different from your original intended business model. Beyond adding functionalities that expand the capabilities of your restaurant technology, a deeper analysis must be done on how your restaurant operations will need to pivot towards a new model of business. Contactless methods, online ordering and curbside delivery form the trifecta that is at the heart of this new model.
While some food concepts are positioned to sidestep quickly, others will need more time and guidance. However, the future relies on being agile to the new almost normal. Consider how your operations could aggressively transform to include any of the following:
Contactless payments: It will be vital to have the ability to remove human contact from transactions, whether that is a credit card or cash being passed back and forth, or customers punching keys on pin pads.
Text notifications: In order to provide a true “contactless” experience, being able to take payments isn’t enough. Technical logistics on how to deliver an order after it’s paid for need to come into play. Consider the ability to text customers in order to alert them that their order is ready.
Contactless/Curbside Delivery: While not all QSR’s are positioned to deliver their pizzas by drone or autonomous robot, there are steps you can take to make your delivery contactless. With contactless payment and text notifications built into restaurants’ online order systems, delivery becomes as easy as dropping at the doorstep.
More drive through lanes: By leveraging mobile ordering apps and contactless payments, restaurants can effectively add more lanes to their drive-thru infrastructure. This helps redirect dine-in business and serves customers efficiently.
Gloves and masks for workers: It’s vital to consider the safety of your employees and how to not only mitigate their risk of infection and protect their health, while at the same time protecting the health of your customers. Gloves and facemasks will be critical, and in some geographical areas are mandates for the reopening of business.
The coronavirus hit like a tsunami in the nighttime, catching the world off guard. Some restaurants were able to pivot quickly to survive that first wave. However, we have seen what is coming, and restaurants cannot be caught unaware again. Now is the time to set your QSR or fine dining establishment up with the restaurant technology that will allow your business to ride the wave of success no matter how many times it may ebb and flow.
Not sure where to start? Contact Focus to get your contactless solutions in place.