Let’s start by addressing the most obvious question: what is contactless dining?
Just as the name suggests, contactless dining is a dine-in experience that involves no close contact with restaurant staff and minimal touching of shared surfaces. This means that guests can view the menu, place their order, and pay for their meal all on their own with the help of technology such as QR codes.
While all this may sound like a futuristic restaurant experience, contactless dining has actually been popular in countries like China for several years now because it offers many benefits for both diners and restaurants.
In the wake of COVID-19, the concept is now picking up steam in North America as a way to try and minimize the spread of the virus. In fact, one study from September of 2020 found that one in seven Americans (13%) said they would only dine out at restaurants with contactless dining solutions.
While implementing contactless dining may require you to set up some new technologies in your restaurant, the benefits far outweigh the time and expense. From improving safety for staff and customers, to faster table turnover times, below are seven key benefits of contactless dining.
- Reduces face-to-face contact
Perhaps the most obvious and most important benefit of contactless dining is that it reduces the amount of face-to-face contact between your diners and restaurant staff.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “COVID-19 is mostly spread when people are physically near (within 6 feet) a person with COVID-19 or have direct contact with that person.” As a result, reducing the amount of face-to-face interaction between staff and customers is crucial in helping to minimize the spread of the virus.
Contactless dining helps to dramatically reduce the number of times restaurant staff need to go back and forth from a table. When the customer is able to view a menu, order, and pay all on their own, the only time staff must come to the table to bring out the actual order – something that takes just seconds.
- Reduces the number of surfaces customers need to touch
Contactless dining also makes dine-in a safer experience for staff and customers by reducing the number of touchpoints in your restaurant.
One of the CDC’s primary guidelines for creating a safer restaurant environment is reducing the number of shared objects in your venue. This includes high-touch materials like reusable menus and condiments. The CDC also recommends using touchless payment options as much as possible to eliminate touchpoints like billfolds and credit card readers.
Contactless dining helps restaurants comply with these safety standards by significantly reducing the number of objects that guests need to touch when they dine in. Instead of handling menus, pens, and receipts, contactless dining means that the only thing guests need to touch is their own mobile device.
- Improves order accuracy
Beyond safety, one of the unexpected benefits of contactless dining is the impact on order accuracy.
Restaurants are often loud and chaotic environments, meaning it’s common for staff to mishear or misinterpret a guest’s order. Not to mention, with most staff and customers now wearing face masks that can muffle conversation, the chances of miscommunication are even higher.
The big benefit of contactless ordering is that customers do the ordering themselves. And since customers have the ability to select, review, and place their own orders, there’s less risk that a server will mishear an order or misunderstand specific instructions. In turn, increased order accuracy means your kitchen won’t waste time preparing an unordered item or incorrect dish, and customers won’t leave unhappy.
- Boost staff productivity
As mentioned, contactless dining means less back and forth for staff. In turn, this can actually lead to a much more productive team.
The traditional dining experience requires staff to constantly be moving from one table to the next to take orders, bring out dishes, take payments, and check on how diners are doing. That translates into a lot of time spent simply moving around the restaurant floor.
Contactless dining helps to streamline operations by limiting the number of responsibilities for your front-of-house staff. With guests taking care of the ordering and payment process themselves, staff have more time to spend on other tasks. In some cases, contactless dining may even allow you to limit the number of front-of-house staff you need, helping you reduce the number of people in your venue and lower your labor costs.
- Faster table turnover
Your table turnover rate is one of your most important restaurant metrics and contactless dining can help you improve that number.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, many restaurants must continue to operate at a reduced capacity. At reduced capacity, restaurants are able to turn fewer tables and seat fewer covers per shift, which significantly reduces revenue potential.
With contactless dining, the guest is in control of the dining experience and can eliminate a lot of the downtime associated with a traditional dine-in experience, allowing restaurants to turn tables over faster. In other words, the ability to control just about everything from their mobile device means guests don’t have to wait for menus to be brought out, for their order to be taken, or even to pay their bill.
- Boost Check Sizes
The ability to seat more guests per service is not the only way that contactless dining can help put more money in your pocket at the end of the day. In fact, contactless dining can help you boost check sizes both during the pandemic and post-COVID.
On the one hand, digital, contactless menus can be optimized for mobile to make high-margin items more appealing. Digital menus can also be equipped with modification and customization options that can raise the cost of each dish.
Additionally, self-serve technology like kiosks and online ordering has proven that diners are more inclined to spend more when there is less social friction. As reported in the Harvard Business Review, customers feel more comfortable placing bigger or more customized orders without a person on the other end of the order that might judge them (whether that judgment is real or simply perceived). And with contactless dining largely removing the server from the equation, customers are much more likely to place those big, customized orders.
- Give guests peace of mind
Though contactless dining has many real advantages for your restaurant, there are also some intangible benefits as well.
Understandably, COVID-19 has heightened consumers’ anxieties around health, hygiene, and safety. According to a McKinsey Pulse Survey conducted in June of 2020, more than 80% of respondents reported medium to high anxiety levels about the idea of returning to dine-in restaurants. Of those surveyed, close or active interactions with other customers (including touching items they may have touched) are the biggest contributors to their anxiety.
Contactless dining can go a long way towards reducing many of these anxieties by showing customers that restaurants are taking safety seriously. In fact, one study by Datassential found that 78% of people agreed that increased safety precautions like efforts to reduce touchpoints and limit face-to-face interactions made them feel more confident. Overall, customers report that they’re willing to make sacrifices to dine-in safely, even if it detracts from the overall experience.
While the COVID-19 pandemic won’t last forever, diners’ heightened anxieties will likely linger for some time. In fact, Medallia Zingle’s recent survey, COVID-19 & The Future Of Commerce, found that 77% of customers said they will take the need for in-person contact into account when they decide whether or not to visit a business moving forward.
As a result, taking the opportunity to invest in a contactless dining solution now not only allows you to offer a safer dine-in experience in the short term, but you’re also setting your restaurant up to cater to changing consumer behaviors.
This article was written by our friends at TouchBistro
TouchBistro is a restaurant point of sale and management system that helps restaurants improve operations, increase sales and create a better guest experience.Click this link to sign up to Maralytics, so you can track, report and analyse your results from your marketing tactics by using our Free Trial opportunity - click here