The restaurant industry was very badly hit by the CoVid crisis. According to Fortune.com, 90,000 restaurants closed their doors for good as a result of the restrictions and lockdowns they experienced. The industry saw an eye-watering $2 billion decline in sales, in under 12 months. So, it is actually surprising that more restaurants did not close for good, because of the fallout from the pandemic.
Many of those who have managed to stay open are still struggling to make a profit and continue to trade. To help them to meet the new challenges they are facing, restaurant, café, and bar owners are increasingly relying on technology. Here we look at some of that tech. As well as ask what dining out in the USA is likely to look like in the future.
More Widespread Use Of Digital Screens
Many of the changes we talk about here came about as a direct result of CoVid. The crisis forced businesses to think creatively and do things differently. They had no choice. It was either that or close because they were failing to work within the restrictions.
The use of digital screens is one such example. Before the crisis, few bars, cafes, and restaurants used them. This was especially true of smaller establishments. But that changed when they needed a way to remind customers of the restrictions. For example, maintaining social distance, washing their hands
Today, demand for restaurant digital signage is through the roof. Virtually every bar, café and restaurant now utilize several digital screens within their businesses. They use them as digital menus, to help kitchen staff to keep track of orders, for POS functions, and as marketing tools. The fact that these screens do not cost much to install or run means that the ROI is good. They quickly pay for themselves. So, unsurprisingly this is the most popular of all the new restaurant technology that is currently available.
A Revolution In The Way Food Is Ordered In Restaurants
Some of the screens being used by the industry are touch screens, which enable customers to place their orders without the intervention of serving staff. This has become vitally important because a lot of restaurants are struggling to find workers, which means they do not have enough waiting staff to take orders and serve customers.
During the pandemic, 5.9 million hospitality workers lost their jobs, so nobody really saw the labor shortage crisis coming. When the restrictions eased, restaurant, bar, and café owners expected those workers to grab the opportunity to go back to work within the hospitality industry with both hands. Surprisingly, the opposite has happened. Many of those 5.9 million workers got jobs elsewhere and decided they preferred their new work to their old work.
Consumers still like to have their orders taken by wait staff. But when that is not possible, they have no difficulties in using the touch screens that are provided.
The lack of staff is also leading to wider use of ghost kitchens. These kitchens prepare food for several restaurants at once. They are still mostly being used to fulfill takeaway orders, but in densely populated areas some eateries are using these kitchens to do some of their dine-in food prep and cooking.
Their use became widespread during the pandemic when restaurants had to mothball their premises and relied solely on takeaway orders. It was a set-up that worked well. So well in fact that a lot of restaurants continued to use them when they re-opened and started to offer at the table dining again. These ghost kitchens were only viable because of the new food ordering apps that had been developed.
More Delivery Options
Those same apps enabled restaurants that had never offered a takeout service before to start doing so, overnight. When they were once again able to open as normal a lot of restaurants decided to continue to offer curbside pickup.
What The Future Holds For The Restaurant Industry
Once all this innovative technology is bedded down and customers and those that serve them are used to it all, the future is bright. A recent survey carried out by Fourth, the provider of the leading operations platforms for the hospitality industry, revealed Americans still love eating out. Fifty-six percent of the people they surveyed said that they ate out at least two to three times a week. 10% of respondents did so at least six times per week and 6% did so every day. That is a lot of demand, which means restaurants still have plenty of opportunities to turn a profit. The ones that invest in tech now are the ones that are likely to thrive the most.