Serving Up a New Path for Contactless In-Restaurant Dining

Graphic for blog headline, Serving Up a New Path for Contactless In-Restaurant Dining

When state governors across the U.S. announced stay-at-home orders for the majority of their citizens, it put an end to one of the most successful runs in the American restaurant industry’s history. Shortly after reaching $900 billion a year and employing some 15 million people, thousands of restaurants across the country were suddenly forced to grapple with the fallout of an unprecedented pandemic that shuttered their physical locations and left millions of staff in limbo. 

However, even though catering to customers in-restaurant was no longer an option, the determination to stay open and continue serving their communities saw countless businesses adopt entirely new contactless dining models that ensured the health and safety of their patrons were prioritized at all times. For example, curbside pickup options have proved to be an overwhelming success, with some businesses reporting as much as a 15% boost in business, and 87% of consumers saying they’d like them to remain in the future.

With that said, in-restaurant dining remains a critical component of most food businesses’ success. Whether it’s grabbing a sandwich at lunch or eating out for dinner, it turns out that pre-COVID, Americans dined out an average of 5.9 times per week and spent an average of $3,000 on eating out annually. The financial benefits of in-restaurant customers are too great to forfeit, elevating the urgency to find ways to fill seats in responsible ways that address new customer needs and concerns.

Here are a few critical areas for restaurants to keep in mind as they create the contactless dining experience of the future.

Leveraging Tech to Deliver Contactless Dining Experiences

With 77% of consumers saying that in the future the amount of in-person interaction required at a business will factor into their decision of whether or not they visit the business, there’s no denying that the business of restaurants has changed. Ensuring the health and safety of customers and staff is now a priority, which means restaurants are rethinking their operations and looking for innovative solutions that allow them to deliver unrivaled experiences with limited physical interactions. 

From QR codes that allow customers to explore digital menus from their smartphones to messaging channels that enable them to place orders and pay without face-to-face contact, these innovations are paving the way for diners to get back to visiting restaurants now in ways that meet their new concerns. Text messaging alone has the potential to empower restaurant owners to remove non-essential interactions and transform up to 80% of in-person dining experiences with almost no physical contact.

Even Coca-Cola has upgraded its Freestyle dispensers to allow for contactless dispensing using QR codes. Of the 52,000 machines it has distributed throughout the country, 78% of them are in restaurants. Meanwhile, as part of their protocols for reopening, many local agencies such as the County of Los Angeles have asked restaurants to allow for mobile ordering and text on arrival for seating. 

All signs are pointing toward a future for the restaurant industry where contactless experiences and touchless interactions allow patrons and staff to navigate social distancing and feel safer in their surroundings. 

Delivering a Remarkable Customer Experience Through Real-Time Visibility

While many restaurants have been able to provide top-notch service to their customers through seamless curbside pickup and speedy takeout, creating a remarkable in-dining experience is more challenging than ever before. 

While today’s diners want to feel safe, they haven’t lost their appetite for a hospitable and engaging dining experience. According to Deloitte research, being engaged by a restaurant and its staff is the most important of all the experiential elements for American consumers. Meanwhile, 60% say a positive experience will cause them to dine at a restaurant more frequently. Driving this type of loyalty is a must for all restaurants looking to bounce back from the challenges brought on by COVID-19.

With technology like text messaging, restaurants can effectively stay connected through the dining experience without compromising safety. And in doing so, teams can also collect the critical information needed to ensure that their customer experience is always where it needs to be. With 75% of consumers admitting they don’t report all issues that affect their experience, finding a way to get this information is especially crucial today.

As it turns out, customers are more likely to provide candid feedback through text versus face-to-face. While receiving a text mid-meal might not suit every patron, restaurants can inquire about communication preferences and send interested customers an automated text once their food is delivered to their table to address satisfaction in the moment. And after they’ve finished dining, text messaging can be used to prompt a post-dining survey text, whether it’s just an informal inquiry or an NPS or CSAT format. 

Online reviews are still an important part of attracting diners and these quick feedback pulses have the added benefit of automatically generating an invitation for patrons to leave a review at those sites.

Through the use of technology, restaurants can meet their customers’ expectations and gain valuable insights into the experiences they are providing.

Providing a Blueprint for a Safe Reopening

While anxiety is still understandably widespread as a result of COVID-19, how restaurants respond will play a substantial role in alleviating consumer worries as people reach for some semblance of normalcy. As such a vital fixture in our everyday lives, and of course as a huge driver of the U.S. economy, all eyes are on the restaurant industry and how they navigate a safe reopening.

Having the right technology in place will go a long way toward restaurants’ abilities to serve their customers while social distancing and technology providers across the globe are working hard to support the restaurant industry through this recovery. How you leverage tech today may make the difference for your guests, your staff and for the health of your business. 

Thank You

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