The restaurant industry’s high-tech nightmare is quickly becoming a reality, and it may be the best thing to happen to the food business in a long time.
If you asked me a year ago about the future of dining, I’d put a flashlight under my chin and tell dastardly tales of digital domination, robot invasions, and the specter of ghost kitchens.
Back then, these subjects seemed like apocalyptic nightmares for many restaurant owners. They also seemed remote — topics that didn’t need to be on the radar for those already carrying a hefty plate of responsibilities and operating at tight margins.
Now, not so much.
Embracing the new
The pandemic has forced restaurant owners to become conversant overnight with technology they had heard of, but not considered implementing. It was if a fast-forward button was pressed and suddenly contactless and cashless were everywhere. Diners wanted delivery and curbside pickup from their favorite neighborhood establishments and restaurants needed solutions that enabled them to meet those demands in the moment.
What the industry is experiencing isn’t just a temporary pivot, it’s a schism. When a Mom-and-Pop café with years-old coffee-stained menus suddenly offers a QR code menu, there has been a cosmic shift. That technology many were so apprehensive of is now actually providing workable solutions to help restaurants stay in business.
And there’s no turning back.
The floodgates have opened and savvy operators will see a new world of possibilities that will enable them to more deeply connect with their customers and discover new ones off-premise via online ordering, virtual kitchens, ecommerce and, maybe most importantly, the data collected from their tech saviors.
The most effective restaurant technology — particularly for front-of-the-house use — is guest-centric, hospitality driven, and helps restaurants focus on what they do best: providing food and service. Today’s guests demanding technology that makes them feel safe and secure will be tomorrow’s customers if those needs are met.
Consumers expect restaurants to pursue all necessary actions required to reduce the possibility of the virus spreading, including the adoption of new technology. According to a survey from Reach3 Insights, almost one in four consumers said the introduction of tech would encourage them to visit more, while 38 percent said it would not make a difference but would help build the reputation of the brand or restaurant. Restaurants are moving full force to understand and utilize the technology at their fingertips and they’ll be hungry for more. Yes, it’s scary to think of what’s ahead, but maybe as owners become more comfortable with technology, they will become as innovative with it as they are with their menus. We just might find that the restaurant of the future will not be one place, but a world of delicious possibilities.