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Industry Dialogue: In The New Normal, Contactless Dining Will be a Must Have For Restaurants

By: Ankit Mehrotra

Last Updated: April 20, 2020, 15:01 IST

Industry Dialogue: In The New Normal, Contactless Dining Will be a Must Have For Restaurants

Once the lockdown is lifted, we will not be going back to ‘business as usual’. The quality of food, service and hygiene will be paramount. Use of Technology to ensure cleanliness, social distancing and as a tool to save costs for the restaurants will be important.

Editors' Note: The Industry Dialogue is a multi-part series by News18.com in which the industry talks about the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic and the challenges because of the COVID-lockdown, as well as the possible solutions and measures to get the economy back on track at the earliest.

The 32nd President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, in his first inaugural speech said, 'The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.' And yet, the fear of an invisible enemy, has brought the world to a complete standstill and has forever changed the way we will interact with each other and the outside world. Going forward, all businesses will operate with new Social Distancing guidelines. However, the one industry, which actually thrived on Social Gatherings, the F&B industry, has been completely decimated. And, when Restaurants open back up again, they will have undergone significant and permanent changes in the way they operate - Safety and Hygiene being of paramount importance. The restaurant industry, and specially Dining Out, will be able to bounce back only, and only if, they can instill confidence and trust in customers that the way they operate, not just in the kitchen but in all aspects of running the restaurant, right from their valet desk to their supply chain is safe and hygienic.

For example, in restaurants, Social-distancing requirements will mean that restaurants will have to arrange tables at least 1.5 meters apart and that they will have to reduce the number of diners allowed in at any one time slot. They will also have to ensure frequent cleaning and disinfection of tables, cutleries and other high frequency touch points. And they will have to train and educate their staff on precautions that are necessary to maintain hygiene inside the restaurant. And yet, customers will get the maximum confidence if restaurants adopt technology based safety solutions, which eliminates customer contact with anything that anyone else might have touched.

This is possible by adoption of Contactless Dining Technology

Contactless Dining removes nonessential human interaction and replaces it with seamless technology. The post COVID world will be a changed one, because diners will be skeptical about stepping out and wary about touching unsanitized surfaces. They will also avoid touching things like Menus and currency which goes through multiple hand exchanges. To counter that, restaurants will need to build trust and habits that reassures anxious diners.

There are a multitude of touch points with a diner that a restaurant can modify and facilitate with the introduction of technology. These can be simple actions like booking a table, pre-ordering meals, takeaway, digital ordering inside a restaurant, digital payment, etc,. Priority for diners will shift and restaurants need to plan accordingly. The climb ahead will be steep but if the industry is armed with technology there will be no mountain it can’t scale.

The diner is looking to step into a safe restaurant where he can grab a quick sumptuous meal without worrying about touching valet slips, menu cards or card machines, etc.

Enable “Safe to Eat Out”: Contactless Dining

Imagine a world where diners can look up a restaurant online, check its ratings, and pre-order the meal before even leaving their house. They reach the restaurant to find no queue and conveniently get their car parked through contactless valet. By the time they are seated, their meal is ready to be served. If they feel like adding another item or ordering dessert, they can use a digital menu from their smartphones by simply scanning a QR code, to place the order. After the sumptuous meal, they pay digitally and leave with the comfort and safety provided by the restaurant. This will create a lasting impression and assure them safety and hygiene like never before.

● Pre-ordering - To cut the wait times at the restaurants, diners will now opt for pre-ordering to ensure that the food is ready by the time they reach.

● Contactless Valet - To cut the wait time down at the restaurant lobby. Diners will have their cars to be brought in just as they complete payments. Digital valet will cut short the time spent at community areas to curb the spread of infections.

● Contactless Seating– To make reservations online and facilitate digital table allotment. Reservations and waitlist management software will ensure that restaurants aren’t reserving more than what the social distancing norms will dictate. For example: Having a 1.5M distance between tables.

● Contactless Menu - Dineout’s ‘Dine-In’ digital menu solution will use Data Analytics and AI to offer dynamic pricing and customised offers at partner restaurants besides offering diners the options to place an order without handling physical menu cards

● Contactless payments – To ease the payment process for both the consumer and the restaurant. Digital payments via e-wallets will avoid the exchange of cash and cards, thereby forcing social distancing.

● Contactless Feedback – Online feedback systems will collect real-time feedback on the dining experience

From a restaurant’s perspective, enabling Contactless Dining allows them to cut costs at the outlets - with effective utilisation of manpower, doing away with printing costs of menus, feedback forms and reducing table turnaround times with preordering. Adoption of technology allows the restaurants to operate more efficiently with lesser human resources, thus bringing about monetary savings.

An extra layer of protection & assurance: Restaurant Safety Kit

That’s not the end of it. There is just so much to prepare for in the post COVID era, and one mistake can toss all our efforts in the air. So going one step further, Dineout has also prepared a safety kit that all restaurants will need in place. This kit includes items like sanitisers, thermometers, visor, gloves, face masks and headgears. It is a one stop solution to any restaurant looking to confidently open its doors, welcoming diners post the lockdown.

Once the lockdown is lifted, we will not be going back to ‘business as usual’. The quality of food, service and hygiene will be paramount. Use of Technology to ensure cleanliness, social distancing and as a tool to save costs for the restaurants will be important. At Dineout, we have been developing Contactless Dining technology over the last 5 years having anticipated the need for both technology and services to co-exist with a B2C marketplace for restaurants. We have been working with partner restaurants who are already using Contactless Dining technology to their advantage. And the results have been phenomenal. Now it is the turn of the rest of the industry to adopt, adapt and survive. Technology which was once thought to be a ‘good to have’ has become a ‘must have’.

This shift is necessary for restaurants to adopt the ‘new normal’ to get their diners knocking on their doors. It won’t be possible without the right data insights and tech. So, our tool for survival is going to be technology. It will pave our path to success and victory, and Dineout intends to be the guiding light. What we need to remind ourselves is that good food and a good time will never be out of vogue. So the question isn’t if we will, it is how we will overcome this storm? - The answer is technology.

About the Author:

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    Ankit Mehrotra is the Co-Founder and CEO of Dineout. The company has developed a product suite that enables Contactless Dining at 6 customer touchpoints, ready for restaurants to implement.

    Disclaimer:The views expressed here are personal