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Executive Insight: The Contactless Guest Journey

Brian Whitney, Vice President of Sales, Appetize

As restaurants scramble to adapt to the new normal, how can technology help by delivering efficiency, security, and ROI?

As COVID’s impact is felt across the country, hospitality operators are turning to technology to help serve guests’ ever-changing needs. From contactless payment to 3rd-party ordering to QR-based mobile web platforms, solutions you can expect from technology providers have been addressing the most pressing safety concerns today. I know how important it is for hospitality and restaurant operators to thrive through these times, and by partnering together, innovative and agile platforms like Appetize have quickly adapted or created solutions to meet market needs, such as the case of Live Nation’s “Live From the Drive-In” social distance concert series. Here, we partnered to deliver a QR-code based location-driven ordering system in a matter of days to multiple locations across the country, enabling thousands of concertgoers to order food while staying safe under the guidelines provided by public health experts and authorities.

As restaurants adopt and refine off-prem solutions such as pick-up, drive-thru, and delivery, what new challenges, such as security and food safety, does off-prem present? How is technology meeting those challenges?

Off-premise ordering has completely changed not only the operator’s challenges but also the guest experience. Safety during delivery of food — either to a courier or to the guest themselves — is the utmost priority, and it’s expected, so operators need to understand the full circle of communication to ensure the success of overall safety. First, the sale has to make it directly to the kitchen and not get stuck in a bottleneck of a “tablet farm” at a host or expo station. Once the order is in the kitchen, communication to the guest via SMS, email or an Order Status Board should be seamless and automatic. Kitchen staff are busy enough; expecting them to take on additional tasks to notify customers of the food status will only lead to frustration. Operators should consider technology that enables an automatic communication of order and order status throughout the entire life cycle of the transaction.

Restaurants are collecting more consumer data than ever before -- how can technology leverage that data to enhance direct-to-consumer communications, personalization, and loyalty?

While more and more consumer data is being collected, much of it is by third parties, not by restaurants themselves. In many cases, this data is being leveraged to strengthen sales channels more than the restaurant brands. More than one operator has told me he sees fees to third-party delivery partners as a “marketing expense” but misses a strategy — or a platform — to convert customers to a direct order basis. At a time when off-premise ordering is becoming the norm, restaurants have to turn to harvesting data and converting users to direct ordering, and in many cases, these direct order platforms are not easy to deploy or easy for customers to use, resulting in another brand disconnect. By leveraging the right technology, restauranteurs can accomplish all goals at the same time, including offers to third-party customers and attracting direct ordering to an easy-to-use platform that provides a premium experience and offerings. In doing so, not only will the restaurant reduce their costs, they will also gain invaluable data on customers to drive increased direct marketing and sales.