Stay home, stay safe is giving way to the return of everyday experiences. Dining out is part of the picture, but people still desire safety. Contact-free dining is one way for restaurant operators to provide security while opening doors to an enjoyable new normal living with COVID-19.
Why is contact-free dining important?
People are hyper-sensitive. Modern Restaurant Management reports 38% of people who return to dining out are worried about touching things others have touched, such as menus, cash or credit card machines.
It conquers fears. Venturing out is a big deal. Entering any public space means risk. Eliminating unnecessary contact/touching assures customers you recognize the concern.
It reduces potential exposure. At the same time you’re protecting customers’ health, you’re protecting the people on your staff and, ultimately, your business interests.
Are customers ready for contact-free dining?
Personal technology is everywhere. Online and call-in ordering has been a big part of restaurant business during the pandemic. Continuing the use of tablets, smartphones and watches as part of the dine-in experience is not a big leap.
Industry giants are paving the way. As Starbucks reopens, it is introducing contact-free protocols, including mobile app ordering and touch-free payment options.
Consumer expectations are set. Although some places prohibit cashless payment only models, offering it as an option appeals to some customers. A poll shows an increase in consumers using cashless payments in recent weeks.
How does contact-free dining work in my operation?
Virtual wait lists. If not mandated, social distancing will remain a concern for guests. Setting up an online sign-in process allows customers to be seated on arrival, eliminating the wait area inside your business.
Digital menus. Place a QR code that can be scanned at the table for access to the digital menu. Guests can place the order electronically, providing cooking preferences or allergy alerts directly to the kitchen.
Cashless transactions. The order process can include an online “pay now” option. When the meal is finished, there’s no awkward exchange of cash or using credit cards that require using pens and handling receipts.
Are there other advantages to contact-free dining?
Quicker table turns. Guests get up and leave when the meal is finished, allowing the restaurant to seat the next person on the virtual wait list. Adding just a few table turns matters when capacity is limited.
Reduced labor. Contact-free dining rooms can reduce the need for as many front-of-house servers taking orders and processing payments.
Data collection. When customers sign in through email or by phone, you have the ability to contact them with special offers. You also learn their preferences (vegan, gluten-free, egg allergies) and can make appropriate suggestions on the next visit.