The Major Role Technology Will Play in the Reinvention of the Restaurant Industry Post-COVID-19
Cities across the country are taking the first steps toward reopening. Millions of Americans are taking their first, often tentative, steps from behind closed doors after weeks of forced closures and stay-at-home orders to stem the spread of COVID-19.
Of course, the reopening process is not simply a matter of going back to work and resuming life as it was before. The ways in which we conduct business going forward will be changed in many fundamental ways. We’re all going to have to reinvent ourselves somewhat to navigate the post-COVID-19 world, and the restaurant industry is no exception.
Many restaurants have already been lost as a result of this tragedy, and many others will no doubt follow before our new normal has fully taken shape. Those that remain standing, along with those that emerge in the future will represent a reinvented restaurant industry, with many of the biggest changes resulting from the adoption of emerging technology.
Let’s take a look at the role technology will play in reinventing the post-COVID restaurant industry.
Takeout and delivery
With the advent of COVID-19, takeout and delivery technology has taken on a newfound significance, and not just for fast food. A restaurant simply can’t survive today without some means of providing online ordering and curbside pickup or delivery, and it’s not just a matter of setting a pad and paper next to your phone and sending an idle waiter out to deliver.
Today’s customers want easy digital access and ordering. A survey from MGH found that 77% of diners will visit a restaurant’s website before they dine in or order out.
Over 80% of consumers have searched for a restaurant on their mobile device, and that number is only going to rise as time goes by.
The majority of consumers (53%) are adding more mobile dining apps to limit their contact with on-site staff. More than half (51%) of those have downloaded at least one new app to purchase food and essentials, with 37% adding more than two.
Put simply, if you haven’t already begun to embrace mobile apps and digital access, you’re at a competitive disadvantage, and that disadvantage is only going to grow the longer you wait.
Along with the rise of takeout and delivery, the concept of “contactless” service has become ubiquitous. While the extent to which customers expect to remain contactless will likelysubside over time, much of the technology put in place to help facilitate social distancing between server and diner will remain as the dining public becomes accustomed to the added convenience it provides.
For example, POS-integrated solutions like OneDine’s offer easy initial setup and data-driven insights to make your operations more efficient and your service more personalized.
Guests can easily browse the menu, order, and pay right from their table on their mobile device without having to wait for a server to visitthem. Not only is unnecessary contact eliminated and service streamlined, but guests can also receive customized recommendations by inputting their dietary preferences, favorite cuisines, dishes, spice levels, and more.
Already, robotic technology is making its way into kitchens, with bionic burger-flipping arms helping to automate the production of food, ensure uniform cooking, and minimize the spread of disease. But the back of the house isn’t the only place in which robots will be lending a hand, so to speak.
Certainly, robotic wait staff and drones might just as easily be employed for meal delivery inside the dining room. And, using AI and other technology, it will also become possible to personalize the entire dining experience according to each diner’s needs, preferences, even their mood.
Imagine sitting down at your favorite table. Your mobile device buzzes, and your AI concierge asks you how you’re feeling today? Will you be dining alone or with others? Is there a special occasion?
You answer verbally, just as you would a human waiter, and with the information you provide, the AI is able to personalize your dining experience down to the smallest detail. Everything from suggested menu items to the level of lighting to the color palette of the table and surroundings can be controlled to make each customer’s dining experience truly unique and perfectly suited to their needs.
Technology continues to move steadily forward. And in an industry facing unprecedented challenges over a very short period of time, this march of technology will be a valuable lifeline as we reinvent the industry for a new generation of diners.