How to Craft a Contactless Restaurant
Restrictions and shutdowns imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus have posed a challenge to the restaurant industry, reporting $120B in lost revenues. There was some hope in early May that U.S. restaurants would see the light at the end of the tunnel, with multiple states loosening restrictions. With a potential second wave looming, many states are already strategizing for more closures, to mitigate COVID-19’s spread. As a result of the coronavirus, social distancing has become a fixture of our culture. Developing a contactless restaurant girds your business in an uncertain future by utilizing tech to minimize person-to-person viral transmission.
Using QR Codes On-Premise
QR codes hit the scene in the 1990s as a type of scannable matrix barcode that can connect users to items of interest. For example, an operator could employ a QR code linking to a corresponding webpage in an advertisement. User can in turn, scan that code using a smartphone. QR codes have been experiencing a resurgence in popularity in the last several years. In the era of social distancing, QR codes are more than a quirky marketing stunt, but an actionable item
QR Codes and Menus
In practice, QR codes were primarily used as marketing gimmicks to get people engaged enough to learn more. QR codes also present an opportunity for your guests to use familiar tools — their smartphones — to obtain a menu digitally. Data remains inconclusive as to whether the coronavirus spreads through surface contact. Keeping clean surfaces is imperative to a safer environment, though. Relegating your menu to a digital space precludes the possibility of person-to-person or surface-to-person contamination.
As guests are seated, wait staff can direct them to a QR code on the table, which sends them to a site with the menu items. It is easy to both create and scan the codes, and you can train your staff to quickly explain how to use what may be a new feature to many. Your guests scan the code, peruse the menu, and place their order in your increasingly contactless restaurant.
QR Codes and Waitlisting
As above, QR codes can help incoming guests to get in line via your reservation system. With many places around the globe, limiting capacity to a fraction of the available space, many restaurants have shifted to mandatory waitlisting for guests to ensure that they never exceed the maximum number of occupants. With increasing foot traffic as restrictions ease, QR codes at your hostess stand allow customers to get in the queue without physical interactions.
Picture a warm summer evening in a location buzzing with foot traffic. A QR code in an eye-catching, accessible location allows guests to sign up for a wait without interacting with host staff. This feature frees host staff up for enhanced sanitary protocols while eliminating potential points of person-to-person contact. For guests who aren’t as tech-savvy, your host can help them navigate their journey by offering instructions or safe alternatives.
Order Ready SMS
SMS messages provide another opportunity to reach your customers. 91% of adults in the U.S. sue them! Contrasting QR codes and waitlisting, an Order Ready SMS is a followup text informing guests when their food is ready. A robust kitchen display system or waitlisting program provides this functionality, allowing restaurants to send automated messages to customers patiently awaiting their opportunity to sit.
In the example above, we look at passing foot traffic using QR codes for waitlisting. Now imagine that those guests are on your list, but dispersed to maintain a safe social distance while they wait. These guests are free to stroll or sit in their vehicles (perfect for curbside delivery), providing another layer of protection against contact between staff and customers.
Order Ready Screens
Like order ready SMS messages, order ready screens are a great way to allow guests to spread out while providing them the information that they need in-house to know when to pick up their food. An order ready screen taps into essential elements of human psychology by giving pertinent information to customers awaiting their orders. When placed in an accessible area, guests can spread apart without asking the host or wait staff about order times.
Imagine the interior of a fast-casual or table service restaurant on a busy evening. The line for waiting has accumulated, which leads to your guests congregate. Even patient customers may feel the urge to ask how long it might take. Order ready screens eliminate the guesswork while giving an endpoint to estimated wait times.
It’s hard to imagine a return to the normal that predated the pandemic, from handshakes or hugs to the way we eat and mingle. By developing a contactless restaurant today, you can gird yourself against tomorrow. Diner habits have fundamentally changed since the beginning of the pandemic, with many opting out of dining in public, and those habits look to remain well into the foreseeable future. By eliminating the need for personal interaction, you free your staff for other tasks and empower guests to dictate their own pace. You can save on restaurant waste by removing the need for paper waitlists or menus, which enhances quality and accuracy. It’s impossible to guess what the future holds. Still, but improving the guest experience for convenience, efficiency, and value is always a safe bet.
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About the Author
Syd was a content marketing specialist, which are fancy words for writing pretty to tell a good story. He likes writing things about food, drinks, and music. He’s a musician himself, a father of two, and loves his wife a whole lot. At home, like the rest of the world right now, he’s finding time to play with the kids and create art.