What We Learned in 2020: A Restaurant Year For the History Books
Murder hornets, raging fires, civil unrest, toilet paper shortages, and a wild and unparalleled presidential election all in the middle of the first global pandemic since 1918 — that just about sums up 2020.
With that said, this isn’t our typical end of year recap, and that’s because nothing about the year 2020 has been “typical.” We’ve all been put through the wringer the past year as COVID-19 has raged like wildfire across the world. Sadly, the hospitality industry has taken blow after blow. Restaurant closures, skyrocketing unemployment, country-wide lockdowns, a trickle of restaurant re-openings with limited capacity, canceled industry trade shows, a dramatic shift to off-premise options, and everything contactless are only a few things we’ve all encountered this year.
What was once the second line of defense for restaurants has quickly become an essential ingredient to survival: to-go, carryout, and delivery. As a SaaS technology company that provides solutions for some major brands, we wanted to offer insights as our team reflects on the year.
Off-Premises Dining and Technology
“To say 2020 has been a traumatic year would be an understatement. We’ve all had to shift strategies and priorities, re-evaluate budgets, and most importantly, lean on one another just to survive. This year has accelerated a massive digital transformation for all industries, and the hospitality industry is no different. Consumers have very quickly changed their behaviors for their health and safety needs and operators are following suit to meet those demands. Operators might have been dipping their toes in off-premises before March, but if they’re not fully investing in it now, they won’t survive. Off-premises, minimal nonessential interactions, ghost kitchens, and scalable technology with real-time data are all going to continue to be the growth drivers for restaurants in the future!”
Amber Mullaney, VP of Marketing
“Back in the day, all restaurants had to worry about were in-store sales and a little bit of carryout. Fast forward many years, bring on a pandemic, and now it’s all about contactless and off-premises dining. Unfortunately, we saw many fantastic restaurants close their doors. The survivors were able to make technology their friend. They had already headed down this path or were quickly able to pivot their operations to accommodate our ever-changing world. In summary, I would say that I learned that there is no time like the present to adopt that technology you have wanted to try. What started as a convenience for your guests has turned into a necessity. Get out in front of it.”
Jennifer Karpinsky, VP of Business Development
On New Opportunities
“2020 provided us with all sorts of challenges. However, with every challenge, there’s an opportunity. The pandemic has provided us opportunities to partner with our customers to solve brand new issues. With such a rapid shift towards off-premise dining with a focus on curbside and contactless exchanges, and balancing the new normal of managing such a high volume of off-premise orders in kitchens, there’s been a major focus on order accuracy and guest communication. We’ve been shoulder-to-shoulder with our customers, helping them transition to the new way of operating. We’re optimistic about things to come in 2021!”
Brian Wayne, VP of Customer Success
Exposing the Weaknesses
“The pandemic’s forced-shift to off-premises dining exposed weaknesses in the process, between a guest, deciding they’re hungry and being satiated by their meal. A restaurant server has opportunities to correct mistakes during an in-person dining visit, but many off-premises issues can’t be similarly remedied. Missing a sauce or seasoning? In the restaurant, that’s no problem, be right back! Off-premises? sorry, maybe next visit. Some restaurants are recognizing the issues and looking for solutions, but it can’t come soon enough. Even after the pandemic is under control and dining rooms are back in full swing, consumers will expect more from delivery and takeout, and it will continue to be an essential segment for sales. Restaurants that choose the right people, processes, and technologies now will see the rewards with happier, repeat guests. I also learned how much Americans like to dine-in at restaurants on Veteran’s Day!”
Joshua Nord, VP of Software Development
On Self Care and Improvement
“In times of adversity, invest in yourself. Take your resources—your time, your money, and your passion—and use it to make yourself better. Take a class, learn a new skill, get that certification, try a new hobby. Do something so that when the dust settles, you’re in an even better position to propel yourself forward.”
Lee Smiley, Director of Human Resources
It’s All About People
“2020 has been a year like no other. What’s made me proud has been how our team has pulled together to overcome the revenue challenges and resource issues. Colleagues doing much more than is expected of them to support our business, which clearly demonstrates that QSR is as much about our people as it is the solutions we sell.”
Ashley Shepard, VP of Sales
2021 and the Road Ahead
“As we wrap up 2020, it’s been an inspiration to see how we’ve all pulled together to ensure good health, safety, and continued growth for the hospitality industry — even amid a global pandemic. And while the past year was a crazy one full of uncertainty, rest assured, we will recover from the toll it’s taken on us. I am looking forward to a promising 2021!”
Lee Leet, Founder & CEO
Let’s face it; we don’t know what 2021 will bring. COVID-19 will have long-lasting impacts on our industry, but one thing is certain – the QSR team will respond, adapt, survive, and thrive! We’ll continue to focus on our mission of creating smart solutions, purposefully technology, and making the dining experience to the next level, regardless of where that experience takes place! We will continue to focus on being collaborative partners with our customers and industry peers.
We’re optimistic about a healthy future for all.
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About the Author
The QSR Automations® team comprises many different individuals setting out to accomplish one thing: help restaurants create the ultimate dining experience.
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