Why Tech is Important for Restaurants During a Pandemic
Why Tech is Important for Restaurants During a Pandemic
The COVID-19 outbreak put a lot of restaurants in a very tough spot, leaving many struggling to operate, and putting a serious strain on others. No one could have seen it coming, and now restaurant owners are facing a new challenge of how to successfully deliver their services and products amidst decreased spending and new operating protocols.
One of the hardest-hit industries from the COVID-19 pandemic was the restaurant business. With quarantines implemented in many countries, some eateries and pubs have been forced to close in cities like Sheffield, Doncaster, and Wakefield. In London most restaurants, out of the necessity to pay bills, rent and salaries, still operate on a curbside-only basis, dealing with a less generous and more frustrated clientele.
At the same time, across the UK, we are seeing an increase in online orders through delivery services which grow in popularity day by day.
A Suffering Industry
The impact that the virus has on the restaurant industry has been two-sided.
We’ve seen an increase in the food deliveries either through restaurants’ own delivery systems (like Pizza Express) or via online delivery providers like Deliveroo, with other establishments closing either permanently or temporarily, and others forced to change their operations just to stay afloat.
Even with the lockdown being slowly lifted, restaurants face a situation of uncertainty, with many regulations changed to answer the growing need for increased food, employee safety and cleanliness standards. Customers’ eating habits are also likely to change from an on-premise to an off-premise eating experience.
Struggles of the Restaurant Industry
The industry is facing several challenges, some of which are likely to stay as the recession deepens. According to the British Hospitality Association report, more than 30,000 restaurants, pubs and bars may close permanently with a closure rate between 10% and 30%. In March alone, Bar and Restaurant sales plummeted to a record low, 60% and 56% respectively. Some of those restaurants are small or family-owned businesses with no back-up plan and limited financial resources.
With each new day, Restaurant Owners are forced to keep up with new Government regulations or fold their businesses. Over the past month, year-to-year restaurant sales have dropped significantly by more than 50%. This is to be expected since people were told to stay home.
Those who hoped to see deliveries and walk-ins take up this slack were naive. Clients weren’t just coming for food, but for the experience of getting out of the house; of not having to clean their own dishes. Robbed of those conveniences, they’d rather just stay home and cook.
This primarily hurt smaller, local, ethnic restaurants who depend on their regular clientele. Big food chains like McDonald’s may have seen a decrease in revenue, but they have the means to help franchisees, the capabilities to offer a more customized online experience, and have a supply chain capable of handling that.
To do their part in keeping people safe and in ending this pandemic early, many food establishments were forced to close. Most, however, were quick to opt for online deliveries instead to help them get to the other side of this recession with their livelihoods intact.
Laying Off Staff
The significant drop in revenue combined with many restaurants closing either temporarily or permanently has led to laying off a huge number of restaurant workers. No one can tell for sure if workers will be re-hired once the pandemic is over. But until then this trend is likely to stay.
Farmers Against the Ropes
Restaurants closing might have a long-lasting effect on how local food producers do business with them. In some areas both sides rely on each other to survive, and when one is hit the other one suffers as well. Local farmers are already feeling the financial impact of the coronavirus.
Is Tech the Solution to an Already Devastated Industry?
This is the first time in living memory that such a pandemic has happened, and the industry didn’t initially have the tools prepared to fight it. Slowly, restaurants are embracing technology in an effort to lessen the damage from the economic ravages of the coronavirus.
There is a growing adoption across the industry as more restaurants are using tech solutions as a way to generate revenue amidst the pandemic. We already saw some good practices, but there is room for improvement.
We believe the following tech options can help restaurants recover faster from the outbreak:
Contactless Payment and Delivery
Many fast-food chains have adopted this method to great success.
Online payments are nothing new, but contactless deliveries are becoming more prevalent amidst the pandemic. Once an order is accepted and the payment processed, the delivery person will then proceed to drop the food to the designated place without making physical contact.
What if you could walk into a restaurant, pick a meal from a menu of pre-made dishes, pay with your card or online wallet, and walk out without having to deal with cashiers?
A similar method was tested by Amazon in the US city of Seattle as they opened a cashierless supermarket.
The same could be applied to restaurants as well to lessen the danger of coming into contact with the virus.
Vending machines are everywhere, offering everything from carbonated drinks to snacks and chocolate bars. But vending machines could be used to distribute small meals without the need for human contact, this is something that has been popular for some time in Japan and could be developed for different venues to still offer signature dishes, comfort foods and luxury offerings that can’t be easily created or bought from supermarkets.
Still not widely adopted, this might very well be the future of food delivery and distribution.
The premise is simple: once your order is taken and the food prepared, it is then loaded into a drone. An operator flies the drone to where it should drop the delivery.
From there, a restaurant employee picks up the drop and delivers it to your door.
What is Next for Restaurants?
The coronavirus pandemic has damaged the restaurant industry, and there’s no telling how long it will take to recover fully from it.
What restaurants need to do now is be proactive:
- Show customers you are doing everything in your power to deliver a safe and pleasant experience.
- Show that you care about your customers and their health.
Building trust in this time of crisis will forge an even stronger bond with your customers than you already have. One way to do this is to adopt the right payment and delivery methods. It’s a long game but, with the right planning, restaurants could do more than survive – they still have a chance to flourish.
Author: Christian Antonoff
Bio: Christian lends his writing skills to Independent Fashion Bloggers. He has worked as a journalist and is passionate about overpriced speciality coffee. In his spare time, he loves to attend exhibitions of art he doesn’t get.