A prerequisite for working in the restaurant industry is often to be “quick on your feet.” The COVID-19 pandemic—more than any contentious customer or kitchen catastrophe—is putting that skill to test. As the nation grapples with another wave of restaurant closings and reduced dining room capacity, establishments must quickly respond to the cry for innovation in the industry.
Independent, family-run and regional restaurant groups especially will need to be innovative to recover, although national chains are not immune to the recent setbacks. The Independent Restaurant Coalition reported as many as 85 percent of independent restaurants could permanently close by the end of the year. But, those that embrace technology will be best equipped to weather the pandemic.
Here are three ways to leverage technology for restaurant re-openings:
1. No-Touch Menus
Data shows that guests want to dine out but safety concerns are the biggest factor holding them back. A survey by AlixPartners revealed 60 percent of consumers fear they’ll get sick by dining out, and therefore prefer to cook at home. In response, restaurants must go a step beyond touting extra cleaning measures and completely eliminate high-touch surfaces—most notably, menus. No-touch digital menus enable guests to view menus on their personal mobile device instantly, for free and without downloads or ads by scanning a QR code. Providing the option of a totally touch-free dining or carryout experience—in addition to following other safety protocols such as mask mandates—can give guests the peace of mind they need to return to dining out.
2. Local Promotional Planning
Restaurants must boost awareness of their brand and its new health and safety standards in their local communities. Tactics like social media advertising, direct mail, couponing and streaming are more important than ever for staying top-of-mind and communicating that operations have dramatically changed to protect guests and workers. PPE signage, such as floor markers, posters and arrows, is also needed to help guests comply with social distancing. Boosting awareness requires not only the ability to create brand-approved marketing materials, but also to rapidly bring them to market.
A through-channel marketing automation platform can help restaurants create brand-approved marketing materials that can broadcast their message at scale and quickly drive guests to their location. An all-in-one solution can also streamline location data management, which is the process of ensuring search engines across the web reflect accurate details about the business, such as store hours, contact information, menus and more. If web users can easily access this information, they’ll be more likely to make an in-person visit.
3. Labor Scheduling
Contact tracing is an important part of preventing the spread of COVID-19. But in a restaurant environment, it can be unclear which workers were in contact with each other over a two-week period of shifts. Leveraging a labor scheduling tool with contact tracing takes the guesswork out of the equation. By using employee time and attendance entries, this technology can quickly identify workers who may have been exposed to an individual afflicted by the virus. Some tools can even make scheduling recommendations for working in “pods” to minimize the number of workers who come into contact with each other altogether.
Restaurateurs and industry workers have always been agile. They can find clever ingredient substitutions, quickly resolve customer concerns, and whoosh past each other without letting a single drop of wine spill from a full serving tray. Now, they need to adopt the agile technology that can work at their pace and help put them on track for recovery.