Before the pandemic presented its challenges, off-premise dining was a booming trend in the restaurant industry. In 2019, off-premise channels were considered a priority by 78% of all restaurant operations. With pandemic-related lockdowns, frantic restaurateurs scrambled to enhance their existing off-premise strategies, quickly becoming a lifeline to the industry. On average, 68% of guests said they were more likely to order off-premise meals than they were before the pandemic. With various vaccines promising light at the end of the tunnel, guests surveyed said that the convenience afforded by off-premise channels would remain an essential fixture of their spending habits.
At this point, likely, any existing restaurant operation has already pivoted to off-premise. Still, as necessity is the mother of innovation, restaurant technologies have evolved to satisfy existing demands. Are you looking for a way to improve upon your existing strategies? With the right tools, you can expand your off-premise channels and give guests what they want and expect.
Since the start of the pandemic, operators have turned to technology as part of their pivot strategy. A whopping 91% of restaurateurs surveyed plan to invest in restaurant technologies this year. That rush to invest in new technologies reflects the preparedness that has allowed many restaurants to persevere, not only through yesterday’s crisis but tomorrow’s as well. Those technologies include kitchen display systems (KDS) for your back-of-house and order management systems to help sort and optimize your off-premise operations.
A kitchen display system is the heart of your back-of-house operations. More than just a screen, a KDS is designed to optimize your incoming orders, prioritizing individual meals based on cook times to ensure that everything comes out fresh and together. A good KDS will feature tabbed views that sort orders based on their destination, be that in-house or off-premise. Customize your KDS to alert your staff to prioritized orders and prevent late or bottlenecked meals.
An appendage of your restaurant technology platform, an order management system differentiates outbound orders by type. With an order management system, you can ensure that your curbside orders are sorted separately from your delivery orders. That extra step goes a long way in making sure everything goes to the right customer at the right time.
Curbside dining has taken off since the start of the pandemic. Leaning into that trend, we can look at the curbside order journey once it’s placed to when the guests receive their meal. In following the path of a curbside order, you can see the various ways that tech can enhance that process.
For example, without restaurant technologies, the order would travel from the guest’s calling to the host or waitstaff writing down a paper ticket. Without technology, the quality can take a significant hit, from misunderstood orders to losing the physical ticket. Upon arrival, guests would have to either call or come inside, which is counterintuitive to curbside’s objective.
With the right restaurant technology platform, the path is much clearer. Let’s break down the steps first and then examine the technology involved.
- The order is placed - a guest places an order either online or via phone.
- That order is then confirmed via SMS text that directs the guest to an order status page.
- Upon confirmation, the order heads back to the KDS and also the order management system.
- Guests can follow along with the status of their order in real-time, unlike some other order trackers.
- Now that the guest and the restaurant are connected, they can communicate back and forth with SMS texting, which can alert them when the order is complete.
- Once the guest arrives, they let the restaurant know by using the same widget for the order status page.
- The restaurant knows the guest is on-premise and directs the staff to the correct location for the hand-off.
In this scenario, the primary technologies are a robust KDS and an order management system, which the customer accesses through their smartphone. Cloud technology connects the KDS and order management system, giving guests the information they need in real-time.
A feature of a robust KDS, tag-on-touch functionality allows your staff to mark off completed portions of an order without inadvertently completing the entire order. While this may seem trivial, it’s an excellent way to ensure quality control before passing an order off to a customer.
Contactless technologies have proven invaluable over quarantine. A feature of a robust restaurant technology platform, contactless technologies have become part of the new normal for off-premise or in-house dining alike. With contactless tech, both customers and guests can interact without having to touch shared surfaces. Contactless tech allows guests to use their smart devices to place orders, communicate their arrival, and get real-time updates safely and efficiently.
While not critical to your tech stack, ghost kitchens are an excellent way to build upon your existing off-premise strategies. Ghost kitchens are kitchen-only concepts specifically intended to craft off-premise meals only. Also known as dark or virtual kitchens, a ghost kitchen offers an affordable option with lower overhead. It can easily play into existing off-premise paradigms, including your restaurant tech stack. The concept has become so popular throughout the pandemic that restaurateurs have struggled to keep up. It’s that popularity that has led to interest from celebrity chefs as the next big thing.
The restaurant industry has persevered much through pandemic lockdowns, pivoting hard into off-premise as a viable revenue stream. Staying agile and innovative in your operations is critical to an always uncertain future, and the success of off-premise channels proved that in 2020. While your guests want to dine-in, we live in a new normal that may never change. Studies indicate that many people will continue to wear masks as a safety measure, and those same people are likely to crave safe, contactless means of dining out. The right restaurant technology today girds your operation against the uncertainties of tomorrow.