The Post-Pandemic Future of Restaurants
Once the epicenter of casual social interaction, COVID-19 has turned the hospitality industry on its head. By now, most people are familiar with how the pandemic has affected restaurants: decreased or eliminated indoor dining, earlier “last call” times, capacity limits, and a huge shift toward delivery. Grabbing lunch from a favorite spot might now mean a quick stop, pick up, and roll out.
While all restaurants have been forced to adapt repeatedly, the most successful businesses have been able to anticipate and adjust to upcoming changes. It’s difficult to tell what’s next over the coming months and years, but it seems that trends revolving around contactless are a safe bet.
This year has been full of uncertainty across the board, and diners have been bombarded with headlines about the importance of isolation and social distancing. It should come as no surprise that many people will be reluctant to set these warnings aside and have close contact with others post-pandemic. Some may even prefer to reduce unnecessary interactions as much as possible on a longer-term basis to reduce the likelihood of exposure to illnesses like the flu (or even yet-to-exist illnesses).
There are numerous ways that restaurants can create a more contactless experience in a post-pandemic world. Read on for just a few!
Even restaurants that don’t offer food delivery can benefit from online ordering platforms. More than ever, customers want the ability to peruse menus, choose what they’d like, and pay without having to pick up a phone or talk to a server.
There are many tools that eliminate person to person contact in ordering. This includes integrations that enable ordering for pick up or delivery via Facebook Messenger (see Slice Factory, for example), website ordering software, and even tablets that enable dine-in customers to place an order without speaking to a server.
In a post-covid society, this is going to be the standard. The choice, control, and ease afforded by these various solutions all appeal to the customer’s technology-driven mindset. Additionally, these tools put diners solidly in control of their meal experiences, including when to start, continue, and end the meal. COVID did not start this trend, but it certainly accelerated it, perhaps even by years.
Spooky season is among us, and so are ghost kitchens
As in-store restaurant traffic plummeted, restaurants began looking for ways to reach more people in new ways. Ghost kitchens were relatively nascent at the beginning of the pandemic, but more than ever, restaurants are turning to them in order to reach a broader audience. These delivery-only kitchens can be strategically placed in areas that aren’t in the parent locations’ delivery areas.
Ghost kitchens provide diners with not only increased selections but also time savings. Customers may be strapped for time with kids at home, working from home, and trying to keep running everything smoothly. There is almost no time or reason to get up and go to the restaurant 30 minutes away when it requires dressing time, waiting and travelling time. However, if their desired restaurant has a ghost kitchen in their area that enables delivery, that restaurant is much more likely to get that business.
Flipping the script with DIY meal kits
Meal kits and meal prep have risen to the rescue in the overly worked, time-limited lifestyle to which modern humans have adapted. Cutting out the trip to grocery stores and eliminating the Do I really need an extra pack of Oreos and mochi? ponderings, do it yourself meal kits are an accessible tool to create high-quality meals from scratch, learn new skills, and explore otherwise unnoticed recipes along the way.
Yet, nothing beats THAT one dish from THAT one place. Nothing. In true absolutist fashion, why not have both? Many restaurants are pivoting their operations and simply pre-packaging meal ingredients so consumers can feel that they’re having a home-cooked meal while benefiting from the guaranteed deliciousness of their favorite restaurants.
Like all things in life, changes are inevitable, and especially during a trying time as the soon to be novel 2020 when challenges are abundant, solutions must be creative to entice and excite customers and keep food delicious and fun.
To the reader: How do you think the restaurant industry will change? What would you like to see stay the same? Leave a comment below!
Li-ran Navon is the founder of Say2eat, a restaurant technology company that provides restaurants with software to enable Facebook Messenger ordering, customer retargeting, and commission-free delivery. Li-ran has an extensive background in technology, startups, and hospitality over the past 10+ years, which have helped him to develop strong expertise in revenue and order generation for restaurants.