Preventing the second wave: how hospitality businesses can make a safe return to service

From 4 July, the hospitality sector has been slowly reopening after weeks of shut doors and takeaway orders, provided they can enforce social distancing measures and keep their customers and staff safe when trading.

In order to keep customers safe from COVID-19, it requires both staff and customers to take a considerable amount of extra care during service and interactions. This does not only include ensuring there’s plenty of space between customers but also guaranteeing staff are following the appropriate hygiene procedures. However, there’s still more that hospitality venues can do to ensure a safe and secure customer experience.

The post-COVID norm: Contactless is a must

Any hospitality establishment that wasn’t already onboard the contactless train before the pandemic should think about getting on now. This payment method has gained increasing popularity since its introduction. In fact, research by Trade Association UK Finance has found that 1 in 3 transactions in the UK are now made by contactless, with 82 million of 99 million debit cards currently in circulation having contactless functionality. That’s a third of all payments in the UK, with debit and credit cards now a more popular payment method than cash. And as customers demand smarter, more integrated solutions all the time, the benefits of providing contactless will continue long after the risk from COVID-19 is gone. 

Furthermore, contactless is a first-choice method of payment for consumers today and they need to ensure they are prepared to accept contactless or alternative payment methods (APMs). In doing so, it ensures staff members and customers don’t need to handle cash, which can potentially spread the infection. By providing a variety of payment methods it doesn’t just come down to preventing the spread of COVID-19, but the need to deliver excellence within the hospitality industry. 

Hospitality is evolving due to the rise of home delivery services, which has been particularly utilised during this pandemic. Venues that have never before offered delivery are now utilising services such as Uber Eats and Deliveroo or have implemented Click and Collect so that their restaurant can still be used to serve takeaway and delivery. But to make the most of these offerings and offer the most successful service for their customers, they need to have the right technology in place. 

Why? When it comes to payments, customers have gradually shifted away from cash and towards contactless payments. The pandemic has simply accelerated this move. Due to the convenience of online payments, same-day delivery and 4G making sure anyone can make a payment on their smartphone, consumers are continuing to demand quicker and more convenient ways to pay. 

However, the good news is that hospitality companies don’t need to do it all on their own. By partnering with a payments provider with the experience and expertise in delivering fully managed in-store, mobile and omnichannel payment solutions – that are secure, scalable and reliable – they can offload the task of catering to all customers in the way that suits them best. 

The importance of omnichannel

Another method worth bearing in mind is an integrated mobile omnichannel solution. By equipping waiting staff with smart connected handsets, this will enable them to better respond to queries, take payments anywhere, and identify the consumer wherever they are in the sales journey to provide a gateway to loyalty programmes and their benefits. 

By introducing connected handsets, merchants can enable customers to order without even needing to interact with waiting staff, providing even further protection for customers and staff as hospitality services reopen post-lockdown. 

But to make the most of these benefits, merchants need a smart, flexible, easy-to-use device. There are solutions that remove the need for queues and give servers the mobility and connectivity they need to provide a truly omnichannel experience that enables diners to order, dine and make payments without ever putting other customers or their servers at risk. 

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By Mark Walker, head of sales at Ingenico Enterprise Retail

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