If we’ve learned anything from past experiences, it is that such hard times have always inspired most innovations from businesses. The aftermath of the COVID-19 won’t be any different. And this time, technological transformations, mostly geared towards ‘contactless’ or ‘less-contact’ solutions, will play an overarching role in reshaping businesses and customer behavior.
Restaurants that are quick to prioritize digital experiences during and after the pandemic will definitely reap rewards. These are some of the restaurant technologies that could accelerate in a world post-COVID-19.
Since online delivery services have played a huge role in keeping several restaurants from closing down, it makes sense to start here. Whether a fast-casual or fine dining, irrespective of the nature of the establishment, restaurants that did not use this technology before have had to transform their business models overnight to offer delivery services. Some QSRs even had to go on a hiring spree to fulfill a large number of online orders from customers during the lockdown.
This trend is only going to go steady, if not see an upsurge, as customers will now be more cautious of eating out in crowded places after the COVID-19 outbreak.
With the fast-growing online restaurant delivery market, there will also be advances in new delivery systems aimed at faster, more convenient and more hygienic practices. We’ve seen how drones and robots are being used to deliver medical supplies within healthcare environments during the current outbreak since the sudden pandemic led to companies working on these technologies to speed up their testings. Pony.ai, a Chinese start-up, recently launched a delivery service in California using autonomous vehicles. Restaurants too will pick up on these delivery technologies sooner than later.
Reducing human contact as much as possible will be the goal of most restaurant businesses in the future. This means cashier-less drive-thrus could be a real possibility. This composite structure will include multiple technologies, including deep learning, vision techniques, cameras and sensors, which will function in tandem to receive orders, take payments and hand over deliveries.
Amazon had already announced in March 2020 that it will be rolling out its ‘Just Walk Out’ cashier-less automated checkout services to other retailers. Similar technology could be built for restaurant drive-thrus as well.
Social distancing will be taken to a whole new level as restaurants are likely to introduce contact-less dining facilities aimed at minimizing contact between staff and the customers. Such technology could spell the end of physical menus, one of the germiest surfaces in a restaurant, especially plastic menus. There’s evidence that traces of E. coli and S. aureus (staph) can be found on menus as these germs are passed from hand to hand.
Instead, new technologies could allow customers to browse through menus on their own phones or tablets, directly place an order from those devices and even make payments.
This brings us to the rise in popularity of newer payment methods which does away with both cash and card transactions to limit surface contact. A Time magazine article brought out the dirty side of money, quite literally, revealing that banknotes can carry anything from cocaine to fecal matter and a live flu virus can sustain on its surface for up to 17 days.
While electronic payments like Apple Pay, Google Pay, etc. and even cryptocurrency, have already been gaining ground, especially among the younger generation, more innovations in this sector is very likely.
Besides physical menus, studies have shown that even touch-screen menus carry infectious germs. There are several other devices around there restaurants that involve touch-solutions including POS hardware. However, as we move to a world where limited contact is the norm, restaurants will be obliged to introduce anti-microbial screens and devices. There are companies that have already developed such pathogen protection technologies and this will gain traction quickly in the coming days.
COVID-19 is a zoonotic disease said to have transferred from animal to human through meat consumption. In the wake of this pandemic, customers are widely going to lean towards plant-based meats, as a healthier option, thus propelling clean technology companies. Plant-based protein to clean meat was already being hailed as the trend of 2020, but after the coronavirus outbreak, research on such meat alternatives is set to expedite. On the other hand, restaurants will also be keen to add more clean meat to their menu.
This outbreak has made hygiene and sanitization the topmost priority for restaurant operators. New technologies to implement and track rigorous sanitization practices, whether, in the front of the house, back of the house or during delivery processes, are soon to make a grand entry in the restaurant sector.
Top universities and tech companies are also working on developing apps to help track the spread of infectious diseases, which could come in handy for employees as well.
So, there you are! We are moving towards a new world, a more cautious one indeed, and the sooner restaurants adopt the new technologies, the better the survival rate will be. It’s all about going above and beyond the conventional to cater to the unconventional needs of future generations.