Contactless ordering solutions have changed the way restaurants approach traditional customer service. Where servers once stood with notebooks and pens ready in-hand, now digital kiosks, mobile apps, and QR codes exist in their place. According to Restaurant Hospitality, “meeting your customers where they are” has largely replaced the standard mantra of “service with a smile.”
The restaurant industry has been pushing toward more technology-driven experiences for decades, but there has been a notable surge within the last few years. With growing customer demand for speed and convenience when dining out, many restaurants, especially quick-service and fast casual venues, have incorporated contactless technologies into their businesses. According to many experts, the era of contactless dining is just starting.
A recent study conducted by Deloitte showed that 67 percent of on-premises diners prefer to order their food digitally. While that by no means suggests restaurants should do away with in-person service, it does mean that they should give customers the option to be independent when dining out. By introducing contactless ordering, restaurants can cut down on the need for interaction between staff and other guests, ultimately putting more of the dining experience into the customer’s hands.
But what are the long-term benefits of this technology, and why should you consider going contactless in your restaurant business?
Here are four ways contactless ordering will support your restaurant and make you more competitive in today’s market.
1. Improved order accuracy and acceleration
A recent survey conducted by Zonal and CGA research firms found that 24% of consumers think long waiting times are the most frustrating aspect of ordering in restaurants. Maybe an order for a meal that takes a while to cook doesn’t get submitted right away. Or maybe it’s lunch rush and someone’s order has been forgotten. If your business is still relying on handwritten or manual ordering, these types of mistakes may happen all the time. The problem is, they prevent your restaurant from delivering great service and encouraging return guests.
Incorrect orders are also a common issue. Restaurants are noisy, and if a guest mumbles, it’s easy to mishear words. Perhaps a customer orders the chickpea burger, but the server hears chicken burger. Or maybe a Caesar salad gets sent to table two when it should have gone to table twelve.
Implementing contactless solutions will help your restaurant work more efficiently. Customers can place orders on their own and choose their meal preferences with whatever modifications are allowed, immediately sending their order to the kitchen once they confirm. For example, a restaurant may have their menu accessible through a tablet. The customer scrolls through each dish and decides on the steak with potatoes and one side of their choice. Usually a server would ask them, “How would you like that cooked?” “Mashed or baked potato?” “What do you want on the side?” But those options are already available and selectable via the tablet. They choose their steak medium rare with mashed potatoes and a side of green beans, and that information is exactly what the kitchen receives. When orders come straight from the customers to the kitchen, the chances of losing or mixing up dishes are greatly reduced.
2. Quicker table turnover
There’s nothing better than a bustling restaurant of patrons. But what happens when the queue to be seated becomes thirty minutes or even up to an hour long? Potential customers may give up and take their business elsewhere.
Of course, waiting times can depend on several factors; how busy the restaurant is, the complexity of meals being ordered, and even the time it takes to clean up after departing patrons. This is especially unavoidable during peak business hours, but it has a negative effect on customer conversion. In fact, 97% of consumers have backed out of a purchase just because it was inconvenient for them.
But the less waiting time a restaurant has, the more business it produces. A Kellogg School of Management paper found that a seven-second reduction in waiting times at restaurant chains produced a 1% increase in profit on average. So, slapping a QR code on the table or having a tablet ready provides your customers with the freedom to order and pay as soon as possible. Not only will you limit extended wait times, but you’ll also maximize the number of customers you serve per day.
3. Higher customer spending
Research has shown that customers are more likely to place large food orders digitally rather than face-to face. Business Insider reports that customers are sometimes embarrassed to communicate long and complicated orders to a real person, making them edit down what they want for fear of judgement.
In the case of global coffee chain, Starbucks, customers frequently order complex items when using the mobile app, including bizarre off-the-menu drinks and ones with excessive modifications. The app offers Starbucks customers a judge-free zone, where they can select and modify whatever they please. In turn, they feel more willing to spend extra cash on an expensive drink.
The same idea applies to restaurants. When you give customers the option of contactless ordering, you increase the likelihood of bigger check sizes.
It's not just comfort that drives higher spending from customers, though. It’s also quick decision-making. Take a customer who is thinking about ordering multiple items but can’t make up their mind. Contactless ordering technology gives them the chance to add anything they’re interested in without hesitation. When you lay out all the options in an accessible way, you encourage customers to make more spontaneous decisions. And the more they end up ordering, the better your restaurant’s profit will be.
4. Fewer employees needed to take orders
Hiring and retaining employees has always been a challenge for restaurants – and these days, it is as hard as it has ever been. A survey from the National Restaurant Association states that restaurants are facing some of the highest labor shortages in years. Seven out of ten operators don’t have enough employees to support customer demand.
However, in times of difficulty finding staff, contactless ordering can be a massive support. By reducing the need for employees to perform menial tasks, like taking an order by hand and then entering it into a machine, it gives you the freedom to allocate your employees’ time to other responsibilities.
While many employees and restaurant operators fear that this type of technology may replace physical employees, in fact, contactless ordering maximizes the productivity of the staff already in place. Servers can prioritize customer needs and work on more personalized service. Not only that, but this kind of technology allows them to have more flexibility on the restaurant floor. Perhaps someone who would normally be handling four tables can now handle ten because there’s no longer a need to manually track each order.
Keeping up with the future
If you want to stay competitive in the restaurant industry, you must adapt to changing consumer demands, and that means introducing the quickest and most efficient technologies. Contactless ordering is here to stay, and its presence across the F&B spectrum will continue to grow as more businesses realize the benefits.
But when you take the step, investing in the right software solution for contactless ordering technology is key to seeing results.
If you select a unified commerce software like LS Central, you can ensure that contactless technology you introduce is all connected and can be managed centrally in one place. Whether you decide to introduce kiosks, QR Codes, or tablets, or all of them, all customer touchpoints will communicate seamlessly within the same POS system. No need to worry about installing different software and overcomplicating things. We make it easy. And by adding contactless ordering to your restaurant, you’ll increase the functionality of your business and attract more customers to dine.
Curious how to start adding contactless options? Contact us to find out more.