The retail landscape has undoubtedly changed but, likely not permanently. Amid the stress of daily uncertainty, disproportionate federal relief programs, mounting bills and drastically reduced cash flow; independent restaurant owners and operators fear the worst and are now trying to imagine a life in what many are calling “the new normal” where experts conservatively estimate 40-60% of restaurants closing their doors…forever.
Although many are theorizing what the industry will look like over the next year and how the market will respond to restaurants finally re-opening, one thing is certain: whether outlets are completely repositioned or only slightly modified - pent-up demand won’t be the only determinant when it comes to consumer spending. Cover counts will be directly impacted by some degree of fear and uncertainty paired with the decrease in capacity new restrictions are likely to affect.
The National Restaurant Association’s recent call to “ should come to no suprise as technology has long been playing an increasingly important role in restaurants over the last few years. Not only in enhancing guest experience but in streamlining operations, maximizing efficiency and lowering overall costs. Now, although new technologies may not help solve some of the most pressing issue which, IMHO, is the lack of commercial mortgage / real estate relief for leveraged Landlords and lenders who need income producing properties to actually produce income from Tenants whose slow-to-no cashflow businesses are simply unable to generate enough capital to pay the rent.
Until appropriate government assistance is devised and distributed to bridge the delta between payments that were originally determined (based on full occupancy and pre-pandemic traffic flows) and new rent structures; the adoption of innovative technologies present some modicum of advantage to those competing for their very survival.
Although restaurant tech has become so essential in the industry that any operator wanting to thrive… let alone survive, has likely already embraced it to some degree, it’s worth mentioning a few of the more interesting and applicable technologies poised to facilitate a smoother and more enjoyable transition back to “normalcy”:
“ORDER FOOD” BUTTONS & STICKERS BY INSTAGRAM
The ability POS companies and third party software providers have to integrate online ordering widgets into their clients’ websites has kept many restaurants alive during the shelter-in-place orders and allowed countless others to avoid the hassle of taking (and placing) orders by phone. But in the interest of providing an edge (i.e., even less friction) to more ambitious operators - “[Instagram] has just launched an update that lets you click “start order” or “reserve” on a business’s Insta profile, making it easier than ever to ogle a mouthwatering bowl of pad thai and then order it right away.
Depending on the restaurant, Instagram will then launch Resy, OpenTable, Yelp, ChowNow, Eatstreet, GrubHub, Reservations or other food-ordering and table reservation platforms so you can satisfy those cravings stat.” - Roberta Fiorito of PureWow
Given that the demand for takeout and delivery sales are at an all-time high; most restaurants are likely to experience a sustained demand for takeaway and “ease of ordering” on the guest end paired with commission-free interfacing on the restaurant side will likely be the key driver to meeting that demand in the most cost-effective way. According to Eliza Fisher, Restaurant Tech Blogger for ChowNow, restaurants who partner with ChowNow can take advantage of both simply by going to your Instagram account, editing your purchase options under your profile, selecting “Delivery” (which covers Pick-Up Only outlets as well) and entering your ChowNow delivery link after selecting them as one of the partners presented.
ChowNow is one of those technologies that’s uniquely positioned to facilitate a smoother (if not more affordable) road to recovery. By pairing their widely acclaimed customer service and commission-free online ordering tool with Instagram’s new and smart way to help restaurants increase their exposure and engage with more guests where they are…so I guess that counts as 2 technologies to consider.
Learn more about Instagram's Food Ordering For Business at https://help.instagram.com/220950502341449
MOBILE POS SYSTEMS BY VARIOUS PROVIDERS
Contactless payment options when short staffed, reduced wait times, faster service, increased order accuracy, higher check averages, faster table turns, more useable floor space, easier transactions outside your physical location (i.e., restaurant festivals, farmer’s markets, pop-ups, outdoor cafe seating areas and food trucks) and now no pen to sanitize or mask to drop when a guest can’t understand what their server is saying.
There are a lot of advantages when it comes to mobile POS systems and generally two categories to choose from.
1.Those that allow a guest to make payments directly from their table and
2.Those that allow guests to place orders and make payments from the table.
Contactless payments on a smart POS can be handled (no pun intended) in a number of ways including: a restaurant’s own native apps or websites where ordering and paying is done on a guest’s own device much in the same way they might order delivery or pick-up orders, via a faster lighter customized web-based app that guests can use anonymously - without creating a profile or account (like WiQ), with the assistance of restaurant-owned devices that are enabled to accept payment via mobile wallets (e.g., ApplePay or GooglePay) and lastly, via integration of third party hardware that employs near-field communication technology (NCR) which requires the person’s card, fob or mobile device to come within 10 cm of the reader. These readers can either be located in (or attached to) an employee’s handheld device or fixed to a table or countertop either in front of the cashier or tableside (as you may have seen OTG’s airport terminal restaurant concepts, Red Robin, Chili’s or Applebee’s).
SamsungPay, while sounding similar to GooglePay and ApplePay is a bit different and requires the use of an Android phone… and although there are more Android phones on the market than iOS phones - good luck finding more than 1 out of every 10 of your guests using them.
Dashnow, Lunchbox and Bbot are the only companies I know of that specialize in mobile ordering and truly contactless payments (for in-house dining AND pick-up / takeaway) that don’t require any third party device or app. Instead their systems allow guests to use their own phone. Bbot CEO Steve Simoni, told Avery McCaffrey of PSFK: “It's an anonymous, no app, no sign-up ordering experience for customers. That's the key tenet of the system, because if you're going into a bar with your friends, it's about speed. You can't learn a new app, you're not going to download it just to get a beer. We had to make it autonomous, no app, no sign-up…get customers' personal orders and then get them out of the system and [their own] phone back in their pocket."
There are a lot of options when it comes to mobile POS providers. The right choice will most likely depend on: cost, whether or not the service integrates with any of your existing hardware, whether or not you prefer an app that turns your own devices into a terminal, how responsive the support teams are and which additional functionality is most attractive to you (e.g., printing checks locally, splitting checks, inventory management features, data analytics, independent payment processing, downloadable games, store / merch sales, KDS integration, home screen customization, QR code & coupon scanning, free-standing kiosk integration (think pre-packaged and takeaway) and the ability to promote specials or ltd time offerings.
Many providers are now offering the ability to integrate an existing POS with the guests' own mobile device. Do your due diligence & compare features of a few of the mobile POS providers with service techs near you: ToastGo, Square, mPOS, Tray, Bbot, Omnivore, Lunchbox, WiQ, Alohago, , HarborPay, NorthStar, Touch Bistro, PayHERE, HarbortouchNCR, Lightspeed, Shopify and SkyTab.
AI RESTAURANT RECOMMENDATIONS BY COURSE
At a time when restaurants most need to maximize their exposure and increase the efficiency of their operations, this Pennsylvania based start-up is testing the first (and only) restaurant recommendation site powered by your private reviews and artificial intelligence.
Course’s proprietary TasteRecognition software generates “customized restaurant recommendations based on your own personal preferences and individual taste”.
Founder, Josh Sapienza believes that when it comes to taste, no one's opinions matter more than another's. That’s why, unlike other restaurant rating and review sites, you don’t publicly rate and review restaurants for other people on their platform - you rate them in order to train your own personal AI restaurant concierge. And having a virtual foodie sidekick that gradually gets to know exactly what you like, don't like and might like seems like a pretty good idea for those of us who want to increase the odds of finding more places we’ll love...especially when our increasingly limited time (and funds) make a bad choice a more painful and expensive mistake.
Sapienza says that his team is focused on accelerating the industry recovery by increasing the exposure of smaller independent restaurants and decreasing the amount of time, money and energy restaurants need to spend on maintaining their online reputation.
The way Netflix, Spotify and Amazon suggest movies, music and products for their members (regardless of how popular they are), Course recommends the restaurants their members are most likely to enjoy.
Course not only tells you how compatible any restaurant is with your Personal Taste Profile but can also recommend specific dishes or cocktails, keep track of the restaurants on your culinary “bucket list” list and maintain a record of your favorites in any U.S. city.
Learn more about Course’s Personalized Restaurant Recommendations: TryCourseApp.com
ROBOT COCKTAIL SERVERS BY BBOT
The world's first drink delivery robot that sleeps by day, serves by night and loves levitating drinks into the hands of guests…which, IMHO, is kind of a big deal since I’ve never seen a bar that’s 6’ wide.Bbot, the company that specializes in one of the most innovative smart pos systems, has also developed a robotic drink runner that “never gets tired, loves to entertain and is always online”.
Whether this system is adopted to meet increasingly stringent public health requirements or merely out of a deep and abiding appreciation for space-age technology; the novelty of having your drinks delivered by a Jetson’s-esque drone isn’t likely to wear off anytime soon.
The whole thing is evocative of the wine angels that zip up and down on wires fetching bottles from the 4 story wine tower at Aureole in Mandalay Bay Las Vegas.Steve Simoni, CEO of Bbot is the man behind these smart trays that traverse a bar or restaurant on a track that running along the ceiling and then descend to the center of your table (with a spill guard attached) to deliver your order.
It’s transforming the customer drink experience and delivering more fun to the party so there’s more time spent living in the moment and less time spent worrying about social distancing.Impresario of imaginative experiential concepts, Jacob Travino features the robotic delivery system at his Karaoke Bar Tokyo Kitty in Cincinnati and says: “We were inspired by the movie Lost In Translation [for this concept]. They have that Neo-Futuristic feel of Japan and it’s the most fun you can have in downtown Cincinnati.”Learn more about Overhead Drink Delivery: Bbot.menu/drinkdelivery/
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