We’ve all seen the impact of coronavirus on the hospitality industry.
Both have offered critical revenue streams. But they’re not the only way to make dining safe.
Contactless ordering has been–and will continue to be–an important measure. It’s why 51% of restaurants now offer it, and 31% plan to add it in the coming year.
Removing as many points of contact as possible helps to maintain social distancing and keep both your guests and staff safer.
Even as the world starts to return to normal, efforts to stay safe are here to stay.
Here’s everything you need to know about digital ordering.
The server-customer relationship is a complex one. Some people love an attentive waiter, while others would rather be left in peace.
Contactless ordering removes that choice for you. Of course, you’ll still have a great restaurant experience, but it takes away the server tentatively approaching you to ask if you’re ready to have your order taken.
Instead, you simply order from your cell phone.
This method of taking orders has become increasingly popular as a result of social distancing measures, and there are a number of ways you can introduce it.
One of the most popular methods of contactless ordering is for restaurants to input a unique QR code on their menu.
When the customer scans their code, either a digital menu will appear for you to choose from or a phone number will open within your text messaging app, ready for you to text in your choices.
Another option for restaurants is to leave a URL on the menu and encourage customers to view and order by entering it into their phone’s search engine.
Usually, you’ll either have a menu in front of you or a menu will appear when you hit enter. You can then select your options, send it straight to your server and sit back while they do the rest.
Similar to a URL, restaurants can also leave a number on their menu for customers to text in their orders directly. This makes things more accessible for people without a smartphone, as a camera and internet connection aren’t necessary.
With SMS, you can also contact your server to request extra sauces, cutlery or napkins, and is the most effective way to maintain the customer-server relationship, while still maintaining social distancing.
Contactless ordering systems have been on the rise for a long time. For more traditional restaurants, however, it can be hard to see past the age-old dynamic of servers and customers.
Let’s take a look at some of the benefits.
The hospitality industry is notoriously fast-paced. Tables need to be turned over, cleaned, and seen as quickly and efficiently as possible.
When you remove the task of taking food orders, staff can spend more time in other areas. The time previously spent rushing around the restaurant floor can now be put into ensuring the smooth running of the restaurant.
With fewer tasks you may also find you need less staff to run the restaurant, enabling you to cut costs and increase revenue.
Anybody who has ever been a server has made a mistake. Sometimes it’s a result of mishearing the customer, other times it’s inputting the wrong information into the system. Either way, being on the other end of an angry chef (and later, customer) is not pleasant.
With contactless ordering, the customer is in control. If they accidentally order the wrong item, it’s easy to trace and hard for the customer to be angry at the restaurant.
For kitchen staff, this means they can carry out the orders knowing the food is exactly what the customer ordered, and reduces the time wasted fixing mistakes.
Contactless ordering was already being steadily implemented by restaurants, but there’s no doubt the pandemic has accelerated its usage.
Even the most conscious of us need to remove a mask to eat, but contactless ordering minimizes the exposure time between staff and customers.
There’s no need to handle pens and notepads or handle receipts and payments. All the customer needs is their mobile device, and the rest is down to technology.
For most online ordering platforms, you’re going to need an online menu that can take contactless payments.
There are a lot of online ordering platforms on the market, with many cropping up since the covid-19 pandemic started.
Some charge a monthly subscription fee, while others retain a commission on every single order. Monthly fees vary widely from $9 to $199. Commission-based fees can start at 5% and go up to 35%. You’ll also want to consider
It’s worth doing your research to ensure you’re choosing the best system.
To get started, you’ll need to set up a POS system that allows you to benefit from contactless ordering. Your POS system will tell you sales numbers, revenue and provide information on your restaurant’s success.
Next, you need to use the online platform we’ve mentioned above for your customers to choose from.
When it comes to your online menu, the most important thing is to make it easy for customers to navigate.
It sounds obvious, but if you’re putting menus on tables too, your online menu needs to match it. Restaurants often forget that if you change one, you need to change the other too.
Make sure to include side-order and condiments, and offer options for diners who want to swap out or change their order slightly.
Once your online menu has been built on the platform, it’s time to implement it across the restaurant. So, how are you going to do it?
Do you want a QR code? Are you going to give people a URL? Or will you tell customers to text their order to a number?
Both QR codes and URLs offer the same online experience. The only difference is how you reach the online menu.
Place the URL or QR code in an obvious place on the menu, and share with your customers how to use it.
When the customer uses the QR code or URL, they will come to your previously set-up online menu.
With your already-installed POS system, any items ordered off the contactless menu should go straight through the system and into the hands of the chefs.
Looking for a slightly more personal contactless guest experience? Let’s take a look at how to use SMS to order while benefiting from customer-server communication through text.
You can start your SMS contactless ordering process with either a QR code or a phone number.
A QR code will open up your integrated messaging system with the relevant phone number, while a phone number is for the customer to input manually. Both do the same, the main thing is that you will be communicating via a text message.
So, where do you start?
First, you need to sign up for a text messaging service.
Then, you need to add a sign to your tables like this one that outlines your contactless ordering system.
When a customer texts the word “MENU” to (833) 222-3059, they’ll receive a text message like this.
The above is just an example and the word your customer’s text doesn’t have to be “MENU.”
In fact, with our restaurant texting service you can choose any keyword you want. (An SMS keyword is a word or phrase that your customers can text to your phone number to receive an automatic response.)
It’s not difficult to set up either. It can be done in two minutes as this video explains.
If you’re wondering what number to use, you can select a number with your area code or even text-enable your business phone.
Once you’ve created a keyword, you’ll need to add your front of house team to your SimpleTexting account.
Add your staff as teammates so they’ll have access to the SMS inbox. From there, they can see incoming messages, sort them by time-waiting or time-received, and then reply from a tablet or even from our mobile app.
For example, many of our restaurant clients like to text their customers when their food is ready.
Depending on what makes sense for your restaurant, you can have a manager or team lead assign conversations to your different restaurant staff.
A contactless ordering process involves giving diners more than just a way to order and pay without having to handle a menu or a credit card machine. It’s about facilitating all elements of the dining experience.
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