It’s 2021 and we’re 500 years into this pandemic (feels like it right?). Everyone is anxious to get out of this mess and return to normal life, but who really knows what normal is anymore? No really. With the introduction of curbside pick-up, grab-n-go meals and contactless menus, the restaurant has had a technological face-lift like we have never seen before. Post-pandemic what can we expect from restaurant operators? What pandemic coping mechanisms have staying power? And what restaurant technology will likely fall to the wayside?
For the Restaurant Industry, 2020 was a year of innovation and technological adaptation. So much so that articles were written warning the restaurant operator to carefully consider the technological decisions they were making and not to integrate new technologies out of desperation due to COVID-19 or simply for technology-sake. And the warning was valid one. COVID-19 leveled the industry in one quick swoop, leaving restaurants to fight to keep their doors open while going back to the drawing board and completely pivoting the way they operated.
The Dividing Line
Those that had carry-out, delivery and online ordering in place tended to fare better from the outset, while others were purely dependent on third party apps to deliver their goods for them at a revenue-gauging cost to hungry patrons afraid to leave their homes.
And to be frank, it simply wasn’t fair. While some third-party apps waived their service fees, the menu mark-ups and commissions they took were defeating. No one could have prepared our industry for the pandemic, but during this time of adversity the wolves forgot all about their sheep costumes and went in for the kill. It’s no surprise that lawsuits are still well underway regarding third party dealings. However, we’re digressing. The great divide between those who depended on these third party apps and those who could operate without them during the pandemic became crystal clear: it was all based on technology.
COVID-19 permanently ended the era of hand-written communication between wait-staff and kitchen, diner and cashier, and ushered in a new thought process for food business operations which shifted everything from paper to digital. We experienced the rebirth of QR codes and other platform bridges that we thought had already served their purpose. Restaurant technology took on a whole new meaning and expanded beyond point of sale systems and kitchen scales.
But where does that leave us now? After nearly an entire year of a pandemic-motivated shift, what restaurant technology makes sense in this new digital restaurant age in 2021?
Virtual Dining Done Better
Not even a year ago, many online menus were either a PDF download or a page that was only formatted to fit a computer screen (don’t even think about mobile compatibility). How many times have you went to order online and had to squint your eyes, pinch your mobile touchscreen and zoom in? Probably more times than not.
For years, digital restaurant menus have been notoriously difficult to read and interact with. We all know the pain of accidentally hitting the back button when we’ve scrolled too far down the PDF and then found ourselves unintentionally off the menu right in the middle of placing an order. (No? Just me?)
For this reason, contactless, interactive menus are a must. (Not to mention a huge reason why we shifted and rolled out a new platform). If you were to visit nearly any other e-commerce site, you would be flabbergasted at the thought of trying to order off of a stagnant PDF page.
Imagine for a moment that Instacart operated off of a PDF list of items. You go to click on a product you would like to purchase but you can’t, and there’s no information to learn about the product either. God forbid you are of the growing food allergy population and had an ingredient that you needed to avoid. How would you shop online if Instacart never pivoted to an interactive menu?
Let’s keep going with our example here:
You have a peanut allergy and would like to order some Ore-Ida french fries from your local grocery store through instacart but the manufacturer information is not available. What would you do? Well you could stop your order and call the grocery store to verify that your groceries do not contain peanut oils or derivatives, and you could proceed with this process until you have verified every item on your list. Or, you would just simply not be able to order your groceries online because it is far more arduous than a grocery store trip where you have every product nutrient statement at your fingertips. In a time of a worldwide pandemic, that’s ridiculous.
As we paint the picture above it’s easy to see the value in a menu that is interactive. Therefore the need to apply this concept to an online restaurant is a must. It should be just as easy to verify the presence of peanut oil in your French Fries at your favorite restaurant as it is when you’re shopping online for groceries. Don’t you think?
Another pandemic-driven issue that can be solved by better online practices is your ability to connect with your diner. At the end of the day we are all diners aren’t we? Wouldn’t you prefer the convenience of communicating through one platform vs. multiple? Ordering, feedback and customer preferences should all be accessible in one place. It is 2021 after all.
What would it mean to have the ability to communicate with your customers about their order, their preferences and even new menu items you’d like to roll out, without ever having them leave your menu?
For these reasons and more we’ve made our shift to advocating for the restaurant operator through the roll-out of an intelligent, adaptable menu that meets all of your needs without stealing your revenue. SmartMenus enables intelligent diner interaction that enhances the virtual dining experience while giving you the inside look at what your customers really want out of your menu.
And analytics. Did we mention those? Tell you what, if you want to learn about how to implement the right amount of restaurant technology in 2021 for your business, contact us. We’re chomping at the bit to make your daily operations seamless and help you make pivotal decisions backed by real diner data — from your very own diners.