The Great Digital Disruption Has Finally Reached Restaurants. But How Widespread is It Really?

By April 29, 2021 Blog
waitress taking order

Chaotic. Catastrophic. “A dumpster fire of a year.” Now that we have more than 13 months of the pandemic in the rear-view mirror, industry experts are not mincing words on the effect it had on the restaurant industry. It’s widely understood that COVID-19 forced many restaurants to adopt new technologies in order to survive – but what did that really mean in practice? How widespread are these technologies, and are they now considered to be a permanent part of restaurant operations?

Along with other surveyors, the National Restaurant Association recently published its 2021 State of the Restaurant Industry Report. Here are some of the relevant findings; overall, tech adoptions within the restaurant industry prioritized public health and a related need for self-service options.

  • 50% of full-service restaurant operators said they have added digital menu access via QR codes since last March.
  • 40% of all restaurant operators say they have added a contactless mobile payment option.
  • 41% say they have added some form of online ordering.

How much has technology changed the industry? As The Spoon points out, “What’s incredible is that less than one year ago, the word ‘contactless’ barely existed. Now it’s a regular part of the restaurant vernacular.”

Looking Back

This heavy adoption of technology was certainly not expected pre-pandemic. Industry observers point to hospitality as the simple reason why so many restaurants resisted technology for so long. As Restaurant Dive puts it, “Sit-down restaurants have traditionally abstained from digital innovations and other kinds of consumer-facing technology out of fear that these changes could cheapen the diner’s experience and undercut their value proposition.”

Statistics show this attitude also changed in 2020, particularly with the younger generations: “29% of Gen Z diners said contactless payment solutions would influence where they eat compared to 24% of millennials and 18% of Gen X consumers.” In total, 21% of customers planning to dine inside a restaurant said that contactless payment options would factor into their restaurant choice.

Looking Forward

When looking to the future, most respondents to the National Restaurant Association’s report said they plan to keep at least some of their new digital processes; fewer than 5% said they didn’t plan to keep any. In addition, Square’s Future of Restaurants 2021 report found that:

  • 76% of respondents said they will continue offering contactless tech options this year.
  • 88% said they would consider swapping digital menus for physical menus.

Finally, Technomic’s recent survey found that 68% of restaurant operators expect their technology spend will somewhat or significantly increase over the next few years.

It seems that technology is certainly expected to help fuel the industry’s recovery, and those restauranteurs who best apply the lessons of the past year to their business model will have the most success. So let’s look specifically at operational processes.

Operational Impact

As mentioned above, technology that was considered “nice to have” before the pandemic became “must have” in the past year; the difference was in adoption rates, not in new innovations. For example, Panasonic’s pulse survey of the food service industry as published in December found that:

  • 100% of respondents said COVID-19 has increased the urgency to adopt transformational technologies. (Editorial note: In decades of summarizing survey findings, this writer has never before seen 100-percent agreement on any question.)
  • 71% cited digital transformation as very important to business agility — more than any other factor.

In related findings, 85% of operators say the pandemic forced them to completely reorganize their operations, according to Square’s report.

At the same time, survey respondents across several studies reported that their restaurant’s profit margin is lower than it was prior to the pandemic – which is not a surprise. So how did these businesses manage to survive?

According to the National Restaurant Association’s study, 57 percent say their operation has become more efficient and productive in the past year.

Can you say that about your restaurant? Do you think your competitors are in that 57 percent?

Adopt The Right Operational Technology

A lot of the attention in the industry media is going to the customer-facing innovations, but the operational improvements are just as important. Two of the top challenges in restaurant operations over the past year have been the increasing emphasis put on complete compliance with public health and safety guidelines and regulations, combined with the industry’s historically high levels of employee turnover. Failing to properly train your staff and ensure they’re adhering to safety practices could be the death of your business (or even, in the very worst case scenario, of one of your patrons).

MeazureUp is a digital, mobile field solution that answers both of these challenges. By moving all of your paper-based compliance practices like checklists into the cloud and onto a mobile app, your employees:

  • Can complete any checklist action or fill out any form at any time from their phone.
  • Can easily add additional documentation such as dictation, photos or videos. All of these entries are automatically saved with the employee’s name, the time and location and uploaded to the app’s dashboard in real time.
  • Are objectively held accountable for their actions as reflected on the checklists. Your managers can see the status of any checklist and address any deficiencies through a remedial action plan; this takes just a few minutes from any location.
  • Can take the time they used to put toward administrative tasks and put it toward ensuring the delivery of a consistently strong customer experience.

MeazureUp also digitally houses all your employee onboarding and training modules, which can be both standardized across the organization but also customized according to job description. Your employees complete only the most relevant training in an online environment that organizes and documents the results.

Finally, since there are no longer any paper-based training documents, you can make any digital updates just once, and the latest version of the checklist, training module or best practice is rolled out to all employees simultaneously. Everyone is kept continuously on the same page (figuratively speaking).

A digital, mobile field app like MeazureUp vastly improves your restaurant operations’ efficiency and transparency while it establishes compliance and consistency. Contact us today.