Technology Plays Pivotal Role in Restaurant Industry's Future

The lessons that hospitality operators have learned over the past two years—and all the technology that came along with them—are here to stay.

As consumers, human beings are remarkably adaptable. Consider how COVID-19 accelerated the adoption of new technologies in the retail and hospitality sectors, and how quickly those new technologies—and new uses for a few old ones—became the norm. In restaurants in particular, customers readily accepted QR-code menus and contactless ordering and payment as parts of the dining experience.

As we enter 2022 on a new uptick in case counts, we are hopeful that an end is in sight, and that we can finally put the pandemic behind us. However, the lessons that hospitality operators have learned over the past two years—and all the technology that came along with them—are here to stay. Operations that already had high-tech solutions in place, or could adopt them quickly, were the ones that survived, and they will be the ones that continue to thrive.

[STUDY: Restaurant Brands with Digital-First Features More Likely to Succeed]

Ordering and payment go digital

According to a recent report issued by Deloitte, the number of restaurant customers who favor using digital methods of ordering food is growing.

Deloitte’s surveys found that 57% of customers prefer to use a digital app to order food for off-premises dining, while 64% prefer to order digitally on-premises (at quick-service restaurants). “For customers who prefer and still take advantage of on-premises dining” the report reads, “their preference for digital ordering continues to grow—even if that means less interaction with traditional wait staff.”

[Contactless Transactions Are Here to Stay]

Less interaction with servers is par for the course in the COVID era, with a large number of restaurants adopting contactless technology in response to the pandemic. As a result of the widespread adoption of digital menus, self-ordering, and self-payment options, many of the traditional touchpoints in the dining experience have been transformed.

[39% of restaurants say using data to understand guest preferences and behavior is driving their next POS upgrade, according to HT's 2022 POS Software Trends report]

This doesn’t mean that human servers will ever be fully replaced by technology, even if the ongoing labor gap makes that an appealing notion for some hospitality operators. People like to have options. Many guests find that using contactless tech to order and pay improves their dining experience, but others still consider the human element to be a crucial component.

Loyalty pays off

According to the Deloitte report cited above, “Loyalty programs will likely continue to play a key role in maintaining the customer experience in the restaurant of the future.” In fact, more than three-quarters of survey respondents (79%) said their participation in a program plays a role in helping them decide where to dine. Customers appreciate loyalty program benefits that include coupons or reduced prices, free items, and exclusive products not available to non-members.

Restaurants with pay-at-the-table solutions can offer their guests the convenience of collecting and redeeming rewards automatically when paying their check. Loyalty and reward programs can be integrated directly into the checkout process through an easy-to-use self-service interface at the point of payment. This is a seamless approach that puts no extra burden on employees, because customers can scan, pay, collect or redeem points, and go, without any assistance from staff—and this can make a big difference at a time when restaurants are still operating with smaller teams.


Onward and upward in 2022

Between labor shortages, supply-chain disruptions, and rising inflation, the industry has been through the proverbial wringer over the past 18 to 24 months. According to one survey of restaurant operators, 87% of respondents either somewhat or strongly agreed that adopting new technology over the last two years has been critical for the survival of their business.

There’s no turning back now, and those in the business are well aware of it. In a recent TD Bank survey, restaurant operators reported that their top areas of investment in 2022 include mobile ordering (54%); delivery services (47%); technology such as new POS digital signage or other in-store tech (45%); and alternative payment methods (37%).

Without the benefit of a crystal ball, no one can say for sure what 2022 will bring, but we can be fairly certain that tech will continue to play a pivotal role. Going high-tech is no longer optional in the hospitality industry; it’s an absolute must.


About the Author

Laurent May is the CEO of Ready, a fully integrated mobile self-ordering, payment, and loyalty technology solution that’s defining the next generation of hospitality venues. He has over 20 years of product management expertise in the electronic payments space leading high-performance teams.