The pandemic is reshaping restaurants, as contactless trends in the quick-service restaurant (QSR) and fast-food sectors find players from Panera to Shake Shack and beyond installing drive-thru windows and offering new digitally-enabled curbside and delivery options.
Upgrading mobile apps is another primary area of focus for restaurant operators now, with massive investment being made to improve in-app customer experiences, to add value with rewards integration, and to maximize ordering patterns during this precarious time.
PYMNTS’ June 2020 Order To Eat Tracker® done in collaboration with Paytronix, looks at these developments in context of a larger post-pandemic restaurant recovery. Trepidation is being replaced with glimmers of optimism as sales begin to rebound and COVID lifts.
“Before March, restaurants provided order and delivery services as something extra, more of a convenience. Now these services are about safety and security, with features like curbside pickup and contactless drop-off, [and they’re now] a basic part of business operations,” Tim Ridgely, head of order and delivery at Paytronix told PYMNTS. “[Customers] expect to not only get their food when they want it but for that delivery to happen in a safe and healthy manner.”
Half Will, Half Won’t
Recent polling shows that roughly 46 percent of consumers see themselves dining out less in a post-pandemic world. Of the 50 percent who wish to dine out, expectations for safe dining include staff in personal protective equipment (PPE) like gloves (14.1 percent) and masks (24 percent), and nearly 62 percent want restaurant workers fully outfitted in PPE.
But it’s the digital makeovers now underway that are expected to make the most difference. Now as ever, a central fear businesses have is losing customers to better-equipped competitors. That’s why digital transformation has taken the order-to-eat (OTE) space by storm, turning bites into bytes.
“The idea is to provide menus, ordering and payments all from a mobile phone, but this kind of contactless dining concept is not just about offering takeout technology, Ridgely told PYMNTS.
“It must be a true dining experience, allowing people to open tabs, place different rounds of orders and pay with a single transaction. In this new environment, restaurants will need technology that helps them manage orders coming in from different sources and going out [via] different fulfillment modes, all while offering a consistent experience. The change we’re seeing as a result of the pandemic isn’t everything — it’s only the start,” he said.
Tell It Like It Is
Mobile-generated customer reviews have proven more powerful that traditional advertising for restaurants during the pandemic, so many in-app ordering experiences are now being reengineered for a free flow of feedback. While the reviews themselves help customers make their dining choices, OTE app data is helping restaurants operate more efficiently now.
“Honest customer feedback can be critical to improving customers’ experiences at QSRs as restaurants reopen and invite consumers into reconfigured dine-in areas,” the June OTE Tracker states. Restaurants have doubled down on contactless digital, but there’s work still to be done.
“Smaller restaurants do not always build costs associated with delivery app partnerships into their pricing models, and the fees can significantly eat into their profits. That is a widely felt problem in the restaurant industry,” according to the June Tracker.
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