Restaurants are tightly focused on surviving the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and rightly so. The National Restaurant Association estimates that the U.S. restaurant industry lost $215 billion in sales between March and October 2020, and more than 8 million restaurant employees were laid off or furloughed in that period.
The serious concerns of the present may cause restaurant owners to put thoughts about the future on the back burner. Yet there is a future for the restaurant industry, one that has been changed drastically by the pandemic. One of the most crucial changes to restaurants caused by COVID-19 is the rise of contactless dining technology.
The popularity of contactless payments was already increasing prior to the outbreak of the pandemic in early 2020, but since that time the technology has boomed as restaurant patrons avoid touching surfaces, including cash and physical cards. MasterCard reports that the number of contactless payments the company processed increased by 40 percent in the first quarter of 2020 alone. What does this mean for restaurants?
Contactless Technology Goes Beyond Touchless Payments
Emergency responders and others in hazardous professions are trained to think “safety first” at all times. The health and wellbeing of customers and employees in the COVID era have extended that tenet to the restaurant industry. As restaurants reach out to their customers via pop-ups and other mobile operations, maintaining a safe workplace applies to a wider range of locations and environments.
Restaurant customers are taking precautions to minimize contact with any potentially contaminated surfaces. A survey of restaurant patrons conducted by QSR Magazine found that nearly 62 percent want restaurant employees to wear gloves and masks, and almost 59 percent state that the use of disposable menus is important to them. That’s why contactless dining technologies now extend beyond contactless payments to include contactless ordering and pickup.
The Rail recommends that restaurants take these steps to help reduce direct contact with their customers:
- Create an SMS system for communicating with customers via text to let them know their order is ready.
- Have dedicated staff members for processing takeout orders and deliveries as efficiently as possible.
- Accept all forms of contactless payments: online ordering, cards using Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, and mobile wallets such as Apple Pay and Google Pay.
- Connect loyalty programs and gift cards to the restaurant’s mobile app, website, and other digital operations.
How Contactless Technology Enhances a Restaurant’s Mobility
In addition to ensuring the safety of customers and employees, contactless dining technology helps restaurants meet their patrons more than halfway by going to them rather than waiting for them to come to the restaurant. Mobility allows restaurants to serve customers via walkup windows, curbside pickup, and delivery. ePOS extends the business’s reach even further by letting you take your kitchen on the road.
A mobile POS setup for restaurants converts smartphones and tablets into wireless POS terminals to which a mobile card reader can be attached. The mobile POS apps support a range of contactless payment methods, including mobile wallets and NFC-equipped credit cards. The system issues digital receipts that are delivered via text or email, but it can also link to a handheld receipt printer, either via cable or wirelessly.
Going mobile doesn’t mean having to sacrifice functionality. Mobile POS systems support such features as split bills, changes to orders, and collection of customer purchase histories and other information. All transactions are encrypted end-to-end for security, and all sales and inventory data is secured in the cloud, where it can be accessed quickly and simply from anywhere and at any time.
Tips for Taking Contactless Dining Technology on the Road
Mobile POS software meets the needs of restaurant owners as well as their patrons. The venues restaurant pop-ups operate from include booths, sidewalks, roadshows, and civic events. Applying contactless technology in outdoor settings presents new challenges for accepting payments, preparing food, and handling supplies. Mobile POS systems give restaurant managers ready access to the data they need to estimate operating costs and required supply levels.
One of the most effective ways to implement contactless dining from any location is by using click and collect ordering through your POS system. Customers place orders using the store’s website or mobile app, pay for it online or using another contactless payment method, and pick up their order when it’s ready. The process requires adding a few new steps to the restaurant’s order process, but once the pieces are in place the restaurant can cut the time and effort required to complete customers’ orders.
These are the features required to set up and run a click-and-collect ordering system for a mobile restaurant:
- A custom website with click-and-collect features built in
- Support for many different types of payments, including NFC and mobile wallets
- Automatic confirmation of payment before orders are prepared
- Automatic notifications to customers when orders are received and when they’re ready to be picked up
- Secure registration to allow customers’ payment information to be stored securely for future purchases
- Smooth integration of online and on-site orders arriving at the same time
By keeping customers and employees safe, click-and-collect systems offer other benefits besides contactless payment and order processing. The systems reduce the time required to serve each customer because employees often can complete orders without having to do any payment processing. Restaurants have never faced a challenge like COVID-19, but they’re finding ways to connect with customers despite health-related operating restrictions. The National Restaurant Association notes that contactless payments are at the top of the list of ways restaurants are protecting their customers and staff. Some restaurants report that their customers’ use of mobile apps and mobile-friendly sites has doubled since the pandemic struck. Aspects of contactless dining will likely be part of the new normal, whenever that may arrive.
In a period of change, talech has a number of mobile POS solutions that can help your restaurant or other business adjust operations smoothly. From reaching new audiences to engaging with your existing customers more often, we give you the tools to adapt quickly and with confidence.
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