By Lucky Thalas
If there is a silver lining to COVID-19, it’s that contactless dining has accelerated the digital transformation of the restaurant industry. Rather than closing their doors as the pandemic lingers on, restaurateurs are seeking new ways to speed table turns, reduce risk and lower labor costs. In response, hospitality technologist are developing the much-needed solutions, the most successful of which is a purpose-built, mobile, in-seat ordering, tipping and payment platform that is seamlessly synced to the restaurant’s point-of-sale system and gives restaurant patrons touch free control over their dining experiences.
A safe and contactless digital platform enables diners to view the restaurant’s full menu and request expert service in real time from their personal mobile devices. With concerns over staff interaction alleviated, the in-seat solution is bringing normalcy to the guest dining experience — something diners are craving today — but more importantly, it is boosting revenues, loyalty, and the bottom line.
Here are 10 ways that a mobile-based, contactless, in-seat ordering, tipping, and payment solution with full POS integration can help to drive revenue and manage the guest experience:
1. Provides a True In-Seat Elevated Guest Experience — To thrive, full-service restaurants must excel at offering their guests an elevated dining experience. A mobile contactless guest ordering and payment solution must replicate and compliment that experience. Guests require the flexibility to identify allergies and assign names to each guest in their party. They require the ability to order multiple times throughout their visit, review their evolving guest check, and pay at the end from their mobile device. To fill the need for an in-seat guest solution during these unprecedented times, some providers have rebranded their online delivery/takeout solutions for in-seat use. Unfortunately, those solutions require guests to order and pay with each session, effectively turning their visits into an online delivery experiences within the restaurant. A true purpose-built in-seat solution is necessary to elevate the dining experience and keep the guests coming back.
2. Facilitates Flexible Food Prep Timing — When a party of four visits a full-service restaurant, they want their meals prepared and served at the same time. The flexibility in having a mobile contactless solution that can intelligently merge and time ordered items by course will go a long way in satisfying the service standards and expectations of the guest. Enabling multiple guests at the same table to order individually from their own mobile devices, and have those individual orders merged, held, and released by a server/team member to the kitchen for prep and timing is essential.
3. Ensures QR Code Security — QR Codes have experienced a rebirth with the release of new contactless solutions. They are now used to browse restaurant menus, order food and beverages, and pay with a mobile device while seated in a restaurant. While static table-based QR codes are simple and convenient, they create significant security risks. Unique order-based QR codes presented to guests at each table is necessary to avoid the following potential pitfalls, including:
Ø Pictures of Static QR codes used from anywhere, making it possible for someone outside the restaurant to access and view live checks.
Ø Pictures of Static QR codes used from anywhere. making it possible for someone outside the restaurant to place orders on live checks.
Ø Hackers/third-parties can develop software to monitor sales activity and disrupt your business.
4. Minimizes Shared Touch Points — Amidst a pandemic and likely for the very distant future, minimizing shared touch points is paramount to guest comfort. Offering a safe and contactless solution that enables your customers to view the menu, order, and pay through their personal device will go a long way towards building consumer confidence.
5. Expands Acceptance of Mobile Payments — According to Statista.com, there were approximately 441 million Apple Pay Users worldwide in Sept of 2019 and growing quickly. Based on the figures from December 2019, Google Pay and Samsung Pay combined were still expected to have fewer users worldwide than Apple Pay. A seamless and frictionless payment experience with the global mobile wallet leader ensures expanded acceptance and adoption. Accepting all credit cards is a must but accepting the world’s No. 1 mobile wallet will speed the payment process and reduce the potential of credit card fraud associated with presenting a physical credit card.
6. Maximizes Labor Cost Savings — A traditionally low margin industry is now faced with challenges that even contingency plans couldn’t have prepared for. Offering an effective contactless platform will lead to increased adoption by your guests. Guest adoption of these solutions provides an opportunity to reduce labor costs without affecting the guest experience.
7. Enables Seamless POS Integration — Deployment and ongoing management of a contactless platform is more palatable with the right point-of-sale integration. As an operator, do you want to force your guests to order from the mobile device or from a server? Do you want to want to make menu changes on your POS and then make the same changes again on a third-party non-integrated platform? The answer should be “No” to both. Enabling both servers and guests to interchangeably add to an order will undoubtedly lead to a better experience. Sharing menus across all your platforms (fixed POS, mobile POS, guest-facing contactless) will create obvious efficiencies and happy managers.
8. Speeds Table Turns & Increases Check Averages — Pre-pandemic, deploying solutions to speed table turns and increase averages were a priority for restaurants. In the current environment — with capacity restrictions in many regions — this is mandatory to optimize the business. The industry must provide an exceptional contactless experience with server interaction on request and then flip the table for the next group as quickly as possible. Industry stats show an 8 percent to 17 percent decrease in guest stay when using a guest facing device at the table and a 10 percent to 21 percent increase in check amount.
9. Simplifies Customization — The in-seat guest solution must minimally offer enough customizable options to match the restaurant’s unique branding. Flexibility must exist for colors, fonts, pricing, food-and-beverage images, and long descriptions for menu items. Guests will adopt a contactless solution that is easy to navigate and enhances the dining experience.
10. Drives Loyalty — Restaurant patrons will want to feel valued, and operators will want them coming back. Providing customers with the opportunity to automatically earn and redeem loyalty points through a mobile platform is critical for retention and reducing customer acquisition costs.
To welcome people back to restaurants safely and responsibly, there needs to be a solution in place that will support restricted on-premise dining, limit contact between guests and staff, and actively demonstrate the operator’s commitment to safety and sanitation. A purpose-built, customizable, mobile in-seat ordering, tipping and payment platform not only provide the 10 benefits listed above, but it also goes a long way towards building customer confidence and driving revenues for restaurant operations in today’s post-COVID environment. With most restaurants still operating at 50 percent capacity or less, this is critical to their financial stability and the future of hospitality.