Since the onset of Covid-19 regulations in early 2020, I believe the restaurant industry has suffered more than any other sector. With forced closures, rapid shifts to takeout only and unprecedented staffing issues, any restaurant owner will tell you the past two years have been challenging to navigate.
Understandably, several restaurants have decided to close their doors altogether. In 2020 alone, more than 110,000 eating and drinking establishments closed, reducing industry jobs by nearly 2.5 million.
Now, as vaccination rates improve, restaurant owners and their staff are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. But how they bounce back will be just as important as when they bounce back, especially if they want to build loyal and returning customers.
Thanks to new innovations, restaurants have access to more resources than ever before. In fact, 50% of restaurants say they’ve added new products or services due to the pandemic. From streamlined payments to staffing tools, AI and automation are rewriting the rules of post-pandemic dining.
In my journey as a founder and CEO, I’ve witnessed firsthand the impact technology has on restaurants’ success. Let’s take a look at how new innovations are helping restaurants tackle these new challenges head-on while creating more experiences that patrons want and are willing to come back for.
Streamlined Payment Options
Now, more than ever before, consumers expect fast, seamless and digitized payments when they go out to eat. As a testament to this trend, 84% of consumers say they would like restaurants to accept digital and contactless payment methods. However, achieving this in the past has been easier said than done.
Thanks to the increased adoption of new technologies, we’ve seen a rise in the accessibility of digital payment solutions for restaurants. These solutions have already had an immeasurable impact on restaurant operations, and today, 55% of these companies say digital payments are critical to their future.
Among these solutions is Wix Point of Sale (POS). Designed to accept payments anywhere, restaurants can harness Wix’s solution to enable customers to pay safely via chip, contactless and magstripe credit cards and digital wallets like Apple Pay directly at their table, online or over the phone.
Square also offers restaurants full-service hardware and software payments solutions. With complete checkout kits, tableside payments devices and applications compatible with Apple devices, Square’s POS solutions streamline checkout for an optimized dining experience.
Reflective of a growing trend toward digitization throughout the pandemic, restaurateurs are already taking advantage of these new systems and digitizing activities 20 to 25 times faster.
Augmented Staffing Solutions
In my last article, I looked at how more workers than ever are willing to walk away from their jobs, causing widespread labor shortages throughout the workforce. Still, restaurant owners need employees to pick up calls, answer customer questions and keep their doors open.
Looking to overcome staffing shortages, several restaurants have abandoned their phone lines altogether (paywall).
The problem is that ignoring calls is not a long-term solution, and for many, that would cut off an essential lifeline to their business.
So how can restaurants strike a balance so that in-store patrons get the attention they deserve while remaining responsive to inbound orders and questions that capture the value of every call?
Autonomous solutions like chatbots, conversational platforms and call assistants can easily fill essential gaps in restaurants’ workforce and help restaurants achieve the best of both worlds.
Often, these innovations also allow restaurant owners to track call volume and peak times to inform staffing decisions, ensuring more employees are at work when they’re most needed.
The efficacy of these solutions is no secret. In fact, 90% of restaurants agree that increased automation would allow their staff to focus on more critical tasks.
More than just enabling restaurants to continue operations, these innovations will allow them to deliver elevated experiences regardless of whether their customers are dining in or taking out.
Robotics And Shipment Tracking Technology
Right now, ordering anything can be a long and complicated process. With the global supply chain (paywall) in shambles, ensuring your customers’ favorite products are delivered and available in the right place and at the right time isn’t easy.
Technology, however, can make navigating these problems more manageable. With new tech-powered innovations, restaurants have more visibility into their food shipments and can cut down on time, money and stress getting the right inventory stocked.
One of the most critical shortcomings of the current supply chain crisis is the unreliability of delivery dates. As a result, restaurants have trouble scheduling their already limited staff to move packages off the truck and into their kitchen. Now, however, robots from companies such as Boston Dynamics are entering the logistics market to grab and move boxes autonomously, at any time.
Other solutions, such as Orbisk, ensure that businesses aren’t over-ordering. To limit deliveries and minimize waste, Orbisk’s solution uses high-quality AI to scan plates of food and detect what items are being thrown away and their quantities. With this information, businesses can make better choices that help them streamline orders while reducing food waste and lost resources.
Think it might be time to make upgrades? Here are a few questions to ask yourself.
1. Does your restaurant match or exceed customer expectations in terms of accessibility, convenience and innovation?
2. Are staffing shortages impacting your business?
3. Are supply chain disruptions affecting menu availability on a consistent basis?
4. Could automating portions of my business enable employees to more effectively serve customers?
5. Would better understanding and reduction of waste impact profitability?
There’s no denying that operating a restaurant during a pandemic is a difficult task. However, with improved technology, and the accessibility of AI/ML solutions, restaurants have a new recipe for success.
What technology solutions are you most excited about for your restaurant?