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New technologies in the restaurant industry: is it worth the investment?

A person scanning a QR code at a restaurant

In 2020, reducing contact between customers and staff accelerated the adoption of innovative technology in restaurants. One year later, you might be questioning whether these tools are here to stay, and if they can offer any additional benefits besides safety.


Chef Chris Beall

We spoke with Chef Beall to learn more about the impact of tech on revenue and customer loyalty, and whether it’s worth the investment.

What are consumer-facing technologies?

Consumer-facing technologies are tools that customers interact with: websites, delivery apps, QR codes, contactless payment tools, online ordering platforms, self-service ordering kiosks, online reservations, etc.

Before the pandemic, most of these touch points were used to solve labour shortages or streamline operations. Now, it’s clear that their utility is much greater than that.

Consumer-facing tech can help increase profits

People will likely remain cautious about contact

During fall 2020, when many restaurants reopened their dining rooms, 71% of consumers still chose to order takeout, compared to 37% who dined on-premise. Most people who preferred not to eat indoors said they avoided it due to the risk of exposure to COVID-191. It will take time for people to feel comfortable eating inside again, so keeping these systems in place is a great way to make them feel at ease.

Consumer-facing tech can help increase profits

According to Chef Beall, the rapid adoption of new tech showed us that modern tools can be beneficial to any restaurant. They can create new opportunities, improve the client experience, and could help you generate more profit, even if human interaction is limited.

  • Younger generations value autonomy. The soft barrier created by technology lets customers decide how much they want to engage and interact. Having tech in place doesn’t mean you can’t offer traditional service to customers who want it – it’s a matter of giving them options.

  • Servers can become salespeople. If you automate the more menial parts of their job (taking orders, managing bills, etc.), servers can focus on making recommendations, up-selling, and building loyalty with customers.

  • Digital ordering promotes impulse buys (even in-house). If customers want another drink or dessert, they can order it on the spot, which gives them less time to change their mind. Plus, if they can pay for their order online, they’ll spend less time thinking about prices, which often results in higher bill totals.
  • Learn about customers’ habits. If people order via an app or a form on your website, you can collect data. Then, you can offer personalized promotions or targeted marketing communications, which will increase loyalty.

Which technologies should you adopt?

Customers have developed new habits, and moving forward, they will expect a baseline level of technology during their foodservice experiences. Here are the top 3 innovations you should consider adopting.

  1. Contactless payments via an app, your website, or PayPass. Foodservice business owners say that touchless transactions are the pandemic measure they are most likely to keep up2, and according to Technomic3, 43% of customers prefer using contactless payment options

  2. Maintaining a presence on online delivery apps, or providing the option to order for delivery via your website. According to Technomic, 49% of consumers feel that technology improves the off-premise experience.

  3. Moving your reservations, menu, and ordering online. This can be as simple as integrating a form on your website. According to Technomic, 46% of consumers like using technology to place their order, and waiting for the server to bring the check to the table is a major pain point.

    A QR code can be linked to a special page on your website that allows people to view your menu, place an order, and pay – all you need to do is display the code around your restaurant (placemats, posters, tabletop inserts, etc). Once all of this information is online, you can easily update your menu, prices, or promos, and even disable an item temporarily – all without having to reprint anything.

Restaurants across the country are adopting new tech, and customers are becoming set in their digital habits. Now is the time to act: decide which technologies can help you improve your service, and always feel free to ask your loyal customers which options would serve them best. All of these practices can be adopted relatively easily and without a major financial investment!

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1 Angus Reid, 2020.
2 Restaurants Canada’s Restaurant Outlook Survey.
3 Technomic Ignite consumer brand metrics, 2020.


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