More than a year ago, no one could have predicted the unprecedented challenges faced by so many restaurants around the world due to a major global pandemic. Customer demand for convenience and flawless digital experiences are on the rise and further fueled by the pandemic. How can restaurants improve the new generation customer experiences using these new demands and digital ecosystems?
As a restaurant owner or operator, you need to look for fresh perspectives as you plan your way forward to remaining successful in the business. Some of the things you can look into include changes in business models that came about as a result of the pandemic, customer behaviors and dining habits.
As long as concerns about being exposed to COVID-19 remain, people are likely to continue opting for the payment and ordering trends we’ve seen since the onset of the pandemic such as delivery and pickup.
Read on for some insights into what the restaurant of the future might look like.
Digital Experiences Will Continue to Evolve
Without a doubt, digital is a main component of the transformation of the restaurant industry. Online ordering and payment are here to stay. It has proved to be profitable, and it also eliminates too much dependence on third parties for sales, marketing and customer engagement.
Besides interacting with their customers, restaurants will continue to develop digital experiences that are fun and easy to use. This will consequently increase customer loyalty.
The digital evolution will replace the conventional point of sale system as we know it. Customers will order and pay for their food via their smartphones, whether dining in or ordering take-out. The pandemic has accelerated this trend. For instance, some restaurants have been providing their dine-in customers with a QR code which they scan to access the menu, place an order and pay.
The digital takeover has also seen menus adjusted and optimized for online platforms. Fewer menu options have been offered on these platforms to reduce food process, improve food quality and simplify operations.
Health Concerns will Remain a Major Factor
Restaurants will endeavor to do everything they can to make their customers comfortable by constantly enhancing their safety and hygiene practices.
Some of the things to expect include increased adoption of contactless payment and ordering, and modification of operations to include hygiene practices that customers can actually see, to give them a sense of safety. Hands-free handwashing stations and hand-sanitizing areas will become normal for any restaurant. It will also be vital to have an employee responsible for hygiene stations and maintenance in the restaurant.
We could also expect the introduction and adoption of new technologies like the UV-C light for disinfecting high-touch surfaces like POS touch screens.
Flexible Seating in Line with Social Distancing Guidelines
Moving forward, it will be crucial to device creative ways of maximizing space while maintaining social distance. For example, a group table meant to seat people together will have dividers to separate people as required. Outdoor seating could also become part of the main floor plan.
Multiple for Friends and Family
Customers will want to dine together in groups. Some of the ways restaurants can approach dine-in for such groups include setting up private reserved areas, specialty demos or cooking demos. Restaurants will also have to support friends and family that want to eat restaurant-quality food at home. For instance, they can provide a meal pack for curbside pick-up and provide video recipes and a phone number of an employee to guide them if they get stuck.
Kitchens are likely to become more productive and compact. There will be a need to design flexible kitchens so as to minimize expenses whenever there’s a major menu overhaul.
Popular Trends Caused by the Pandemic will Continue to Grow
Such trends include delivery, curbside, takeout and drive-through orders. Restaurants will become very proficient at improving contactless operations for their customers who love convenience. This will involve covering all the intricate detailed in developing seamless systems such as customer education, staff training and aligning processes.
The restaurant of the future is already here. Customers are excited about going back to dining in with their family and friends again. However, this is being done gradually and cautiously as we get through the pandemic.
Our experience with COVID has changed our behaviors and expectations which have had an impact on how restaurants operate. The restaurant of the future will not be the same again and it will have to pay close attention to both the customer and operator needs.
Written by Adam Berebitsky, Lisa Haffer and Carrie Shagat. Copyright © 2021 BDO USA, LLP. All rights reserved. www.bdo.com
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