Following the UK government's announcement on 23rd of June that restaurants can re-open for business, many outlets are finding themselves having to find innovative ways to make their restaurant COVID-secure.
The Prime Minister, in his address to the House of Commons, stressed that businesses must be vigilant when reopening and do what they can to stop the spread of COVID-19. Naturally, in the hospitality sector, this has caused some degree of anxiety for many restaurant and bar owners. How, in an industry that is so public-facing, do we minimise the risk of infection and reassure our customers that they are safe in our establishments?
It is clear the main solutions are to minimise contact between parties (whether that be customers or staff), distancing tables and maintain robust cleaning schedules. However, there are other conundrums that many outlets are yet to solve, such as how staff are able to take orders safely and how can customers browse the menu or pay for their meals without risking spreading the virus.
Fortunately, the answer to all of these questions may come in the form of existing technology.
In the past decade, some of the larger players in the hospitality arena have used technology to innovate their business and maximise their workforce's time. In 2017, J D Wetherspoons launched their "Order & Pay" app, which allowed customers to order food and drinks to their table, in a similar vein to how JustEat or Deliveroo would for home deliveries. This pioneering app removed the need for customers to read a printed menu, queue at the bar or even come into contact with staff prior to them bringing their order to their table. It even manages the payment process with the use of payment gateways and Apple/Android Pay.
A few years prior in 2015, McDonald's launched their "Touch Screen Kiosks", which allowed customers to order and pay for food on screens in their restaurant. This minimised the need for staff-manned tills and meant their workforce could be utilised more in the kitchen to turn orders around more efficiently. This, along with an increased presence of self-service checkouts in supermarkets, means that customers are more used to ordering for themselves rather than having to rely on staff.
Fortunately, web development companies are now creating personalised apps for smaller businesses to purchase. Businesses such as Hungrrr essentially brings the Wetherspoons app model and applies it to independent outlets. Additionally, there are apps like foodorders.co.uk and Omnify that allow customers to pre-order when they book their tables.
An added bonus is that, following the government's announcement that they'll be asking restaurants and bars to provide customer information as part of track and trace, many of these solutions collect data safely and securely.
If having a food ordering app helps you comply with the guidance, minimises the spread of COVID-19 and maximises your workforce's time, maybe it is something worth considering?