COVID-19 Survival Guide For Restaurants: How Technology Will Reshape The Industry

by | Jul 3, 2020 | Restaurant Technology

53% of the nation’s restaurants and bars are closed (Restaurants Canada). 800,000 employees are out of work. Temporarily, they hope.

With the restaurant industry being one of the most affected by the economic slowdown, restaurant owners will discover that their old business model just doesn’t work in a post-COVID world.

After a forced break of multiple months, many restaurants are now re-opening their doors and trying their best to adapt to the new guidelines and regulations while still offering a hospitable and fun experience. Many restaurants and veterans in the business are closing up shop, claiming it’s going to take a long while before restaurants can run at full capacity again. 

On the other side, during the first few weeks of restaurants re opening in Montreal, multiple restaurants and bars have been facing huge backlash for not setting up proper covid protection mesures. The public and the health officials will be looking closely at restaurants that are re-opening their doors, since they are basically a test ground for the new health & safety regulations.

Everybody is working togheter, hoping it will be successfull and won’t start a new outbreak or a second wave.

The next coming months will be unpredictable for business owners. One thing that is clear is that the restaurant industry took a massive hit, and only those who adapt to the new norm will come out of this winning.

In times of crisis, restaurateurs are always known to find ways to innovate, evolve and serve the public in creative ways. Whether it’s a virus or a global financial recession, major disruption will usually force businesses to either crumble or to adapt and change for the better. This time around, it’s clear that many of these changes will be driven by technological progress: Finding ways in which technology can help us reduce unnecessary contact, accelerate service and make cleaning surfaces easier.

Although some of these ideas have been around for many years, most restaurants have not fully adopted digital innovations yet. The COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed consumer behavior and restaurants have no choice but to adapt and embrace the ways in which technology can save their economic viability & provide their customers with a smooth, stress-free experience.

Restaurants and businesses that adopt this kind of technology early on will thrive in the coming years. 

This article will cover the new guidelines for restaurants, the newest tech created to help restaurants serve their clients in a better and safer way and tips and tricks to regain consumer confidence.

Though restaurants are slowly re-opening, their future is still uncertain.. 

Public health says several people who attended Mile Public House between 8 p.m. and 3 a.m. the night of June 30 have since tested positive for the virus. 

CBC News , July 06, 2020

Based on early reopenings in cities like Montreal, or New York, it seems that opening up too fast, or being too relaxed about the restrictions could reverse all the progress made by the health authorities. It’s our local restaurants responsability to re-open in a safe and controlled manner, in order to minimize the chances of a second wave hitting us even harder than the first one.

The most important difficulties that restaurants are facing with re-opening

1) Health & Safety Measures

Restaurants have always had food, safety and cleanliness measures, but this time around they are taking it to the next level, and it is justified. These new safety precautions probably reduce the speed and efficiency of service, but in this post-COVID world, safety and cleanliness are far more important than speed and efficiency.

2) Rules & Regulations 

Rules and regulations are going to be a big challenge for restaurants in the coming months, as guidelines are constantly changing, following the evolution of the virus. As an example, physical distancing rules means that restaurants will have to reconfigure their tables, and the way the service is done, changing the experience entirely. 

3) Losing Consumer Confidence

While restaurateurs can control how they adhere to the new safety measures to help clients feel safe, they cannot control how their clients feel about the whole situation. Consumer confidence will take a long time to get back to the same level as it was before the pandemic. Though most people seem excited about the idea of eating out again, some people are still very cautious as to where their food comes from, and how it is prepared.

As restaurants are re-opening, they are now facing more public scrutiny than ever before and will need to respond fast to any concerns about the safety of their operations at the risk of being closed down or losing the trust of their customers. This will be especially challenging due to the speed at which the news circulate on social media these days.

How technology can help restaurants adapt to the new safety measures.

The best way for restaurants to overcome these new challenges is with the help of modern technology. Online delivery and services like Uber Eats have helped many restaurants stay open during the beginning of the pandemic. As we slowly re-open society and adapt to the new normal, more and more tech companies are finding creative ways to implement technology in restaurants to help take on this new set of challenges we’re about to face. 

A few years ago, not many restaurants owners were ready to invest into restaurant technology as it didn’t provide much advantages or return on investment. But in a post-COVID world, restaurant tech, touchless payments & bluetooth technology are key to thriving and gaining consumer confidence. 

Table Management

The floor plan of most restaurants will constantly have to change and re-change to adapt the ever-changing rules and regulations. This means rearranging the way tables are placed, but also readjusting the way the bar seating is set up, entrances, exits, bathrooms etc.

A good of example of innovation in the floor plan is French superchef Alain Ducasse’s restaurant in Paris, where he installed a novel ventilation and table division system to keep his restaurant running at almost full capacity while still respecting the french reopening regulations.

Many tech companies are competing to create new table management systems that can be used to keep track of these ongoing changes. The software can also help staff move parties and manage sections throughout service

Menu Management

In order to stay afloat, many restaurants had to start an only takeout/delivery service. This means they also had to make many adjustments to their regular menu. Even for  the restaurants that closed and are waiting until dine-in restrictions are lifted, supplier shortages or delays for certain ingredients will force them adapt and change their menu on a regular basis. With less orders coming in, most restaurants have also made major cuts to their inventory. In some cases, they’re no longer able to buy in bulk and are forced to purchase ingredients from local retailers at a higher price.

Many companies are developing menu management softwares that helps restaurants manage all their current offerings in one place. This means you can make changes on the fly based on inventory levels, available staff, and more. It also provides an easy way to manage multiple menus if you’re offering specialty items, such as ready-made meal kits and pre-made goods.

Reporting & Analytics

Before COVID-19 and the new regulations, most restaurateurs would use spread sheets, excel and simple tech to keep track of their business metrics. But as restaurants start to re open again, the complex  and constantly evolving rules, inventory and staff issues will force restaurant owners to use software to manage their businesses. 

As the restaurant industry undergoes major changes, data will be your best friend. Tech solutions like BillMaster can collect customer data and create  reports that provides you with up-to-date information about how your restaurant is doing. This information can help you make decisions about your hours of operation, the profitability and popularity of each menu item, the amount of staff you need for a given day etc.

Online Orders, Delivery & Take Out

Mobile apps like Uber Eats, or SkipTheDishes  are now dominating Online ordering as the industry adapts to consumers demands. This allows your clients to place an order for takeout/delivery directly through your restaurant’s website or an app. 

This is not only beneficial for clients, but also for the restaurants. Online orders means fewer people will be visiting your venue, which reduces the risk your staff, or other customers getting sick.

Additionally, online ordering can be a valuable way to keep revenue coming in when your main location is partially or completely closed. 

A great example of adapting to the pandemic through online sales is the story of the Dispatch food truck in Montreal, who retained lots of their regular customers through their subscription service since the beginning of the pandemic.

Contactless Payment Apps

What are contactless payments ?

Contactless payments are payments that don’t require any physical contact between the buyer (his card), and the payment terminal. They securily complete payments by using short range wireless technology between a contactless card or payment-enabled device and a contactless-enabled checkout terminal. Many companies are racing to offer contactless payment through apps, without the need for payment terminals.

Though contactless payments solutions have existed for years, none of them have gotten the success anticipated and restaurants have been slow to adopt the technology.

However, in the context of a viral pandemic, contactless payment will greatly reduce the transmission of the disease, since many studies revealed that the virus stays active on certain surfaces (incudling the payment terminal) for up to 3 days.

Contactless payment in restaurants is no longer just about convenience and extra profits. It’s about the health and safety of the public. Restaurateurs need to be prepared for this major shift in payments technology, especially since customers will start to demand it as the norm.

Loyalty Program Software

Using a contactless payment app for your restaurant means you can keep your customers engaged through a loyalty program that rewards them for every time they visit your location. Loyalty programs like the one we have in place on BillMaster strengthens the business to consumer relationship and assures long-term business by offering coupons, deals and other rewards to your most-frequent customers.

Digital loyalty are becoming more and more popular for smaller restaurants these days, but for many years, major brands such as Starbucks have had lots of success using them to turn casual customers into regulars. 

In the wake of COVID-19, restaurants must adapt and prioritize social media and digital marketing/commerce. People try to stay home and work from home  as much as possible, so reaching them where they’re at will definitely give your restaurant an edge on the competition.

Loyalty programs give restaurants a seamless way to collect and store customer info and data so they can create promotions that attract, engage, and reward loyal diners. 

To conclude

Technological advances will reshape the restaurant industry in the coming years and now is the time for restaurants to rethink the customer experience and implement restaurant technology as a marketing and communication tool.

At BillMaster. we raise our hats to all restaurant owners trying to stay afloat and hopefully reopen soon. Reopening restaurants and other social rituals could do alot of good for our communities but could also be a great risk to the public if not done thoughtfully, and we hope BillMaster will help make your restaurant safer, more efficient and more comfortable for clients.

Are you interested in implementing technology in your business/restaurant ? For a limited time, our partners at Yamm Software are offering a free consultation call to discuss your software or app idea. Their expertises ranges from iOS & Android development to bluetooth technology & integration of IoT devices with mobile apps.

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