Covid left its stamp on every industry, changing the way businesses operate across the board. Restaurants and their loyal patrons, especially, have been forever impacted by the pandemic. As a business that works with restaurants and has a deep understanding of the operational implications of Covid, we would argue that restaurant owners and managers overcame the biggest disruption the industry has ever seen with incredible versatility.
Customer expectations, safety precautions, ordering systems, menu offerings, etc. Not one department operating within a restaurant was unaffected by the pandemic, and the way that restaurants approach their guests both on and offline has changed drastically. Here’s our prediction for the future of restaurant customer service.
- Contactless ordering and payment:
We’ve seen it all through Covid. Almost every restaurant you enter has adapted to a hands-off, self-service model. Whether this means ordering online once you’re in the restaurant and picking up your food or drinks at a counter, or using a QR code to access a menu through your own phone, restaurants are relying on you to conform to a touchless model.
In a survey by Upserve asking 421 customers what their largest challenge has been when dining out throughout Covid, 47% said that transitioning to online ordering has been a big hurdle. It’s key that restaurants do find an online ordering solution that has the following: no app download required (QR codes, please!), an easy-to-use interface, prominent branding, beautiful images, and very detailed item descriptions including nutritional information.
Restaurants that have reopened for dine-in also benefit from online ordering so that their staff members aren’t constantly taking phone calls for orders, and so that contactless payment is already integrated into the platform you decide to utilize.
Contactless payment is more and more prevalent as well. This article from Huffington Post lists out the best apps for contactless payment within a restaurant: Google Pay, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, PayPal, Venmo, Zelle, Cash App from Square, and Facebook Messenger. The hesitance to use these contactless payment systems is definitely there, but many restaurants – especially in larger cities – are quickly accommodating these methods.
BTW: Have you Venmo’d a bartender or server their tip yet? We have!
2. Safety Protocols:
Laminate, laminate, laminate! If a restaurant isn’t offering online ordering, QR code scanning, or at the very least laminating their menus so that they can easily be wiped down after someone uses them, then they’re not going to be viewed as a clean space from a customer standpoint. Cleanliness will be viewed by most patrons as an important step of service even after Covid is “over.” And the quotes are purposeful – don’t you feel like it’s never truly going to be over? Asking for a friend…
Anyhow, staff having to spend extra time cleaning will absolutely be happening for the foreseeable future, sometimes meaning longer wait times for patrons. This may mean that restaurants need to consider having more televisions or means of entertainment while customers experience extended wait times, especially as capacities rise back to pre-Covid times.
3. Customer expectations:
The root of it all. From prior to their visit until the very end, customer’s expectations have become much more stringent. They want to be able to look up the menu before coming in to evaluate whether the food program will cater to their food allergies and preferences. They expect curbside drop-off to their car when they order pick-up. They expect delivery to be an option (in urban areas especially). They expect excellent online and phone customer service. They expect outdoor dining options when the weather is nice.
You’ve heard the saying, “You can’t control a customer’s expectations.” The truth is, with the right presence, consistent quality of food and beverage, and friendly service, you can get pretty close. A little bit goes a long way, and just making sure brand and online information is correct and synced everywhere will ensure that staff is able to relax and focus on giving the customer an experience they won’t soon forget.
4. Keeping everything linked and updated:
The ability to manage online reputation requires that customers are able to easily find pertinent information about a restaurant online. Should online information be incorrect, that can have a negative affect on SEO and overall presence. Searchable images of menu items and of the interior of a restaurant, as well as maps of the location, should be available anywhere a restaurant can be found. The site, affiliate sites, review sites, etc. No leaf unturned!
Finding a platform that allows a restaurant manager to automatically update the menu in real time across many sites will increase the chances of being found by existing customers, and that they’re showing up higher in the search results for potential customers. Order consolidation to manage online orders also makes a restaurant owner or manager’s life a thousand times easier. Being able to control everything from one tablet instead of three or four is the difference in BOH food ticket times as well as FOH drink ticket times and expediting orders.
We still think it’s amazing how quickly restaurants conformed to the shift in service in the era of Covid. It’s easy to face the changes with resistance but it’s also an ode to the adaptability of restaurant owners and workers. Once things open again and restaurant capacities return to normal, the potential to make even more money than before exists solely in the addition of more takeout business. Add a rock solid online ordering system and increase SEO by syncing your presence across the board, and you’re back in tip top shape in no time!
Just don’t forget to wipe down your QR table laminates in between guests. 😉