Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the restaurant industry is taking a major hit. With government requirements for social distancing and limited groups, the National Restaurant Association has predicted that restaurants and the foodservice industry could sustain $225 billion in losses during the nationwide shutdown. To stay in business, many restaurants are turning to self-service kiosks to survive coronavirus shutdown orders, because they decrease labor costs, increase customer satisfaction, increase revenue through larger average purchases, and are safer.
According to Sam Zietz, CEO of GRUBBRR, an emerging technology company that creates and delivers ordering solutions that help restaurants increase business efficiency, restaurants that use kiosks realize an average increase in purchases of 12 to 22 percent. The restaurants best positioned to handle our new reality are those in the QSR and fast-casual space, because they already were prepared and designed for takeout and delivery orders.
“These restaurants have the infrastructure and operations already in place to support these new requirements,” Zietz said. “What we are noticing is the consumer preference to use the kiosk versus interacting with a cashier. This change had already started but has accelerated, because people don’t want to have physical contact or close contact with cashiers.”
Zietz said that about a month ago, he would have predicted a two-to-five-year timeline to see the ubiquitous use of kiosks in restaurants. That has accelerated because of the pandemic.
“Normally, a pilot would be 90 days long, and then there would be a long rollout plan. Today, we are hearing from restaurants that want to know how quickly we can deploy. One national chain asked us how fast we could help them deploy from two locations to 110.”
Another area GRUBBRR has seen accelerate because of the coronavirus is restaurants placing kiosks outside, so customers can maintain social distancing.
“When the order is ready, the customer receives a text and can pick it up at a designated spot, or the staff will bring it to customers,” he said. “It’s creating a synthetic type of drive-thru for restaurants that don’t have them, which is vital for restaurants in this environment.”
In a matter of days, GRUBBRR can help a restaurant get up and running with a kiosk that is stand-alone technology or integrated into its current POS system and can be accessed in real-time from anywhere in the world. The future of kiosks, according to Zietz, is a frictionless and pleasant experience, much like those created by airline kiosks.
Another way that many restaurants are enhancing that frictionless experience is through mobile phone ordering, but he encourages them to provide that through their own websites rather than outside delivery services. Together, these will help restaurants keep more of their revenue and increase customer loyalty.
The company recently launched a new feature that integrates with a restaurants online ordering to create a QR code for mobile phone ordering. With it, customers don’t have to touch the kiosk screen at all.
“Mobile phone ordering is up, and adoption of our new QR code mobile solution is being adopted very quickly,” Zietz said. “Now, customers can order on their phone and then pay at the kiosk with tap and pay or by inserting a card. No one is touching their card. They aren’t touching the kiosk. It is literally 100-percent hands off.”
Any size or type of restaurant can benefit from the technology, and the company can get its most basic model, which can integrate with most of today’s popular POS systems or stand alone, in hours or just a few days.
“Keeping loyal diners engaged has always been important but is more so now. At a minimum, every restaurant should have online ordering,” he said. “You have to be able to pivot as an entrepreneur. Restauranteurs know they must find a way to serve customers while they aren’t seating people in their restaurants for an undesignated and possibly expanding period of time.”
As Zietz shared, the reality of “contact-less” ordering and paying at restaurants was coming, but its arrival has been accelerated by the coronavirus. He predicts the change will stick and grow going forward.
“Activities will change going forward, and I predict we will be in post-corona fear for a while. So, this is a good time for restaurants to catch up and even move ahead in terms of technology, he said. “This will be like 9/11 was for the airline industry – it is changing the restaurant sector in ways that won’t change back.”