The coronavirus crisis has accelerated some trends that were already on the horizon, and which are likely to stick around. Here is a look at some restaurant experiences we can expect to see more of in 2021 and beyond:
1. Off-premises dining
Ordering food from restaurants to enjoy it at home had been growing in popularity for at least a few years. In 2018, research by Technomic highlighted that 59% of all foodservice meals were being consumed off the restaurant premises. “Dine-in [restaurant] visits are now the minority,” said Joe Pawlak, managing principal of Technomic, while discussing global dining trends.
In the past few months, the stakes have changed. The restaurants that were able to offer off-premises dining, and bring food straight to consumers’ homes, are the ones that kept business going, and made it through the closures.
2. Contactless ordering and payments
Placing an order via a mobile app, or paying by waving a mobile phone or card over a payment device, were already gaining momentum before the pandemic. For customers, it’s a matter of convenience and speed, while restaurants gain from increased access to up-to-date guest data. When the pandemic hit, contactless ordering and payments quickly became one of the safest ways to operate, due to the little to no human contact required.
3. Online table bookings
With limited indoor seating, compulsory table bookings, and generalized anxiety around crowds, the spontaneity of passing by a restaurant and popping in for a meal has been taken away from many consumers.
Online table reservation systems have taken on new importance. By enabling guests to find the most convenient day and time at a glance, and without having to speak to anyone, they are simpler to use and more convenient than the traditional phone call. For restaurants, these systems provide a structured way of adhering to strict social distancing guidelines with no hassle or confusion.
4. Automated kitchen operations
While restaurants are successfully putting measures in place to safeguard their customers, a greater challenge is protecting their cooks and kitchen staff. How do you maintain social distancing in confined kitchen spaces?
Restaurants are getting around this challenge by trialing smaller staff teams and staggered shifts, while at the same time strictly monitoring everyone’s health before they enter the kitchen. Technological solutions are also playing an ever-important role in simplifying operations and minimizing contact between the kitchen and front-of-house staff. Tools such as kitchen display systems (KDS), where orders are sent from the POS straight to screens in the kitchen, help improve communication while reducing the number of times front-of-house staff needs to enter the kitchen. KDS also helps streamline work in the kitchen. Menu items are automatically displayed in the correct preparation order, and if there are more displays in the kitchen, dishes are automatically routed to the correct screen (for example, burgers are sent to the grill display while deep-fried chicken wings are sent to the fryer display). This kind of organization can help staff complete their tasks faster, and without getting in each other’s way.
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