How to Leverage Contactless Technology to Profit at Lower Capacity
As restaurants across the country continue to reopen under specific state-mandated health and safety guidelines, it is vital that restaurant brands leverage contactless technology and procedures to maximize operating efficiency, generate revenue and ensure employee and customer safety, at lower capacities. With an increase in expenses from employees to produce, and a decrease in regular customer traffic, restaurants need to take serious measures to adjust day-to-day operations and long-term business models to optimize sales amid these current limitations. Below are a number of tactic that operators can use to guide operational strategies as they navigate the road ahead.
Ordering & Payments
The opportunity today is for operators to leverage technology and supplemental resources to create a seamless ordering and payment experience that minimizes contact and cultivates consumer confidence.
With a continued emphasis on social distance, QSR and fast-casual restaurants have been working to accommodate any and all ordering and payment scenarios in a minimal contact manner, such as: delivery orders, order ahead for curbside pickup or in-store pickup, in-store orders, and more. While in-store traffic will likely be slower to increase as capacity guidelines are lifted, there is still plenty of opportunity to drive digital traffic, leveraging technology to meet consumer safety expectations and fulfill all operational needs.
Investments in a truly contactless ordering and payment technology, which encourages customers to use their own mobile devices, will be beneficial in order to promote customer and employee safety now and in the future. In lieu of this, brands must offer central table-by-table tablet devices to create a voice activated ordering experience and one-tap payment experience to minimize contact, limiting the contact from signing a receipt, picking up a hard copy of the menu, or touching a menu tablet or bill folder. With a failsafe system in place, customers will frequent where they feel most comfortable and safe, cementing the importance of a smooth, contactless service model.
Delivery & Curbside Pickup
Brands should focus on contactless delivery and pickup, investing in capabilities directly through the restaurant brand to ensure complete control and optimal branding throughout the experience.
QSR and fast-casual restaurants that offer direct, contactless delivery have an opportunity to better manage the customer experience by controlling the timing, safety and quality of the food being delivered. Brands must have a system in place that guarantees minimal food contact, communicates accurate, timely pickup and delivery times and isolates food before it meets the consumer, whether that means outdoor pickup stations or front door drop-offs. Every communication including payment confirmation and status updates should be sent via digital push notification to avoid any in-person contact.
Contactless service models can also cut back on third-party costs by repurposing employee skills to fit the current demand. Further, direct ordering, payment and delivery solutions provide restaurants with ownership of their data to drive customer engagement moving forward. Having real-time access to their own data trends, brands can adjust their business strategies to best cater to their personal customer base.
Marketing & Loyalty
Restaurants should utilize data-driven, contactless loyalty programs to identify their most valuable customers and leverage those relationships amongst capacity constraints.
Restaurants need to employ loyalty and marketing initiatives to deliver unified interactions that take into account health and safety concerns that their customers may have. Giving loyalty customers the ability to pay, earn and redeem points through a contactless, seamless process will be critical to maximizing engagement in this new reality and beyond.
By using data to identify loyal customers, target new ones, and cater to their specific habits, brands can determine which customers to hone in on and invest in and how to do so. Further digital personalization will foster valuable, contactless customer connections that hold the power to a modern marketing restaurant strategy. Operators can gain insight into top selling items and the messages that are driving the most revenue amongst specific groups and adapt their communication and marketing strategies accordingly to capitalize the most from current business constraints, in a way that puts customer safety at the forefront.
Communication is key. Brands need to enforce contactless operations across all points of engagement, communicating initiatives both internally and externally to create a consistent and comfortable environment for consumers.
Brands need to maintain a consistent dialogue with managers and franchisees to ensure they are informed of and carry out strict contactless procedures across all points of operation, including how they prepare, package, provide, and deliver food service to consumers. But it doesn’t stop there. Communication with your customer base is also critical using an omnichannel approach of email, text, push notification and social to assure consumers that they are taking the most appropriate steps to prioritize public safety. Through open communication about their contactless practices, brands will increase brand value and consumer confidence thereby driving sales.
Now is the time for all restaurant operators to make sure they have a consistent, contactless long-term operations plan to sustain business amid capacity restraints in the near term as well as address customer safety issues in the long term, all the while delivering on personalization, convenience and safety. By creating an efficient contactless ordering, payment, pickup and delivery model with an integrated loyalty program, restaurant brands can prioritize safety while still maximizing operations to turn a profit.
About the Author:
Sastry Penumarthy is the Co-Founder and VP of Strategy at Punchh, a provider of dynamic, one-to-one customer engagement through artificial intelligence, mobile-first expertise, and omnichannel communications for restaurants and retailers. Along with his co-founders, he built Punchh from its alpha product to becoming the market leader in the restaurant industry with nearly 200 global enterprise brands.
Prior to Punchh, Penumarthy led product marketing teams, launched products at various CRM and marketing platform companies like HotSchedules, InsideView Inc., BEA Systems, and Siebel Systems. In addition, he co-founded Nuevora, a big data analytics services company where he designed and developed analytics capabilities for Fortune 500 companies.