Rebooting restaurants: Tech solutions to Covid-19 problems in catering

COVID-19 has been a huge problem for restaurants and catering businesses, with virtually every company in the sector, from bars to cafés, having to re-think their business model. With the industry so strongly dependent on social gatherings and interacting with other people, it has been a sector massively impacted by social distancing guidelines and hygiene standards. 

But one of the ways that restaurants can recover from COVID-19 is by investing in technological solutions, from cashless payments to switching to online solutions. Here are some ways that businesses in the food industry can maximise their efforts through technology. 

Online menus

Reusable menus can be an issue for restaurants now that hygiene standards are such an important issue. With so many people handling them throughout the day, they can pose a bacteria risk. One way to combat this is to encourage the use of online menus which will still provide convenience without the health risk to both customers and staff. 

We’re entering a new phase of encouraging customers to bring their own devices to restaurants in order to make viewing menus easier and safer. In situations where this isn’t a possibility, another alternative is single-use menus which can be disposed of quickly and easily. 

Ordering through apps

The rise of pubs, cafés and restaurants using their own apps to take orders has increased considerably since the onset of COVID-19 – not only does it make social distancing easier but it’s a more convenient option for customers, which allows businesses to deliver a quicker service. 

Apps limit the contact customers need to make with a waiter and also reduces the need to have lots of people walking around at the same time, which makes social distancing easier to adhere to. The use of apps can be effective whether a restaurant chooses to take payment before or after a meal too, so they can be adapted to suit the practices of the business. What’s more, there is a huge range of POS systems now available. 

Contact-free payment

While using contactless card methods for payment should be encouraged, contact-free payments have other benefits besides reducing cash handling. With this method of payment, the bill can be totalled up and individuals can pay simply yet effectively through a link to a payment page on their phone or through an app. 

These have been available since lockdown and are increasingly being used by businesses in the restaurant industry. Payment methods like Apple Pay and Google Pay are already a common occurrence and will likely be part of a larger group of options going forward. 

Smarter shift planning with management software

Staff work schedules have been impacted across a host of industries and there is now a greater need for teams to work in bubbles, which requires smarter management of shifts. Management software can be a great way of achieving this and avoiding the common challenge of managing staff and schedules, not just during the pandemic but also for the future.  

By using software, managers and supervisors can plan schedules more effectively and avoid the headache of unmanned shifts and over-budgeting. It also makes it easier for businesses to arrange cover when a staff member can’t make it to work. 

Look for the opportunities!

Businesses need to get creative during these unprecedented times to find opportunities to maximise their growth. One way to do this is to encourage customers to sign up to your site newsletter so that you can offer a more personalised service through offers, email reminders of deals or to let them know about promotions you’re running. 

Touch-free washrooms

Now more than ever, restaurant hygiene is of paramount importance. Low-tech solutions have been vital throughout the pandemic, in the form of easily accessible hand sanitiser and clear signage to remind people to wash their hands regularly, but there are uses for technological solutions too. For example, the handling of manual taps have been shown to have between 1,500 and 6000 bacteria on them. For this reason, investing in touch-free taps can be a great addition to washrooms and kitchen sinks to make the process of keeping bacteria at bay much easier and efficient. 

Final thoughts

Along with many other sectors, the restaurant industry needs to adapt to combat the negative impact of COVID-19. Technology offers a number of solutions to minimise the risks associated with this industry and makes it possible for businesses to continue to thrive while keeping to the necessary guidelines.

By Daniel Groves, business growth consultant

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