Restaurant dining rooms are starting to reopen after months of being closed due to COVID-19, but many guests are hesitant to return. More than 50% of respondents in a recent Datassential’s industry survey said they would not be comfortable with on-premises dining once the pandemic improves and social distancing is eased.
It’s not all bad news though. When asked which of the following food and drink places they were most excited to get back to, more than 40% of respondents said dining at their favorite restaurant—beating out bars, sports events, movies, and other venues to come in number one on the list.
The right technology can help restaurants resume business and provide a safe dining experience that gives customers confidence the establishment is doing everything it can to protect their health.
In addition to shortening lines and increasing average check spends, self-order kiosks give customers a minimal-contact way to place and pay for their meal. Maintaining a six-foot distance is difficult when ordering at a counter, but this technology can help assure guests their experience is safe while also reducing labor costs. Of course, a staffer will need to sanitize kiosks between customers, but that action imparts a great safety visual.
Contactless Payment Systems
Mobile wallets and tap-and-pay cards have been around for years. Now, the technology is being used to decrease person-to-person transactions and slow the virus’ spread through cash and plastic credits cards. Adding this payment option improves guest safety and lets conscious consumers know their well-being is a top priority.
Guest Engagement Apps
Restaurants can motivate customers to return and increase their average guest check with a loyalty program that’s easy to redeem from a mobile device. Businesses get the added benefit of gaining valuable insights into customer behavior so they can focus on what works to maximize ROI and secure repeat visits.
A menu tablet at each table can replace plastic and paper options, lessening the surface area where germs live and reducing the number of items to clean after each use. As with all tabletop devices, the National Restaurant Association guidelines say they must be sanitized between seatings. Alternatively, an up-to-date menu that can be accessed on a mobile device gives guests a contactless way to decide on a dish.
Digital Check Presenters
These mobile devices allow diners to facilitate their own checkout for table service using a built-in credit card processor. Instead of a waiter disappearing into the unknown with a customer’s card, guests can quickly scan, tap, or insert their chip right from the table—preventing their card from coming into contact with contaminants. Fast check resolution means faster table turns, too.
Taking orders and processing payments tableside cuts down on the need for paper and pens, both havens for germs. It also increases service speed and order accuracy, which is especially important to retain customers who may already be nervous simply by being in a dining room. Additionally, since wireless POS systems reduce the time spent walking back and forth to a stationary device, it can help restaurants serve more customers and boost revenue—accelerating businesses’ financial recovery.
Virtual Gift Cards
Robust gift card programs can boost revenue and bring in new customers. But rather than passing out physical cards, virtual options eliminate the need for person-to-person contact and keep everything conveniently stored on the cloud.
The restaurant industry may be forever changed by COVID-19. But as more people resume their normal lives and start visiting dining rooms again, businesses can use technology to build customer trust, improve the bottom line and find new ways to safely serve guests.
The National Restaurant Association and Heartland have teamed up to offer payments, payroll, point of sale, customer engagement and funding solutions to help manage and grow your restaurant. Learn more. •
This article was originally published at the National Restaurant Association’s website on
June 2, 2020.