Here's how technology is transforming the restaurant experience

Jay Kitterman, now Consultant for the Culinary Institute at Lincoln Land Community College, Feb. 12, 2015.
Jay Kitterman, now Consultant for the Culinary Institute at Lincoln Land Community College, Feb. 12, 2015.

The restaurant industry has traditionally been slow to adopt technology and innovative digital solutions. But in 2020 and 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic changed that and forced restaurants to look beyond the traditional. More contactless technology, ways to keep guests separated from other guests and lots of additional sanitary measures. Many of the initiatives were a result of the challenge of finding enough help and providing expected service to customers.

Technology and innovation have helped, even saved restaurants as they transformed n this new connected and contactless era. They adopted online ordering, self-checkouts and touchless payments to delivery and pick-up.

So, what digital trends and tools should be top of mind in 2022 to stay up-to-date, and even ahead of the competition?

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A dominant trend is QR codes. They are important tools for driving restaurants’ growth and enhancing the guest experience, enabling dynamic menus that allow restaurant operators to avoid wasting time and budget on printing menus and testing new pricing.

QR codes are forecasted to increase 10% in 2022, following a jump of 15% last year and 25% in 2020. Surprising to me was that 68% of adults say they like the convenience and are likely to pay using contactless or mobile payment options if the restaurant offers them.

During COVID, QR codes served as stand-ins for traditional, tactile menus to avoid spreading germs. But QR codes represent how technology can transform the dining experience benefitting restaurant guests with self-service ordering and checkout, providing employees the ability to turn more tables and get more tips.

The codes help restauranteurs better understand customer preferences with data and provide greater convenience. At the same time, diners can keep ordering food and drinks without having to worry about flagging down a server. Thanks to QR codes and mobile menu/ordering, restaurants can introduce loyalty programs, customer rewards and specials that can help power the dining experience for the guests’ future visits. A strong example of data that can be captured via mobile ordering platforms is obtaining immediate guest feedback, asking patrons to quickly tap a button to rate their meal and guest experience. Some newer systems allow the guest to easily filter your menu by dietary restrictions or preferences such as gluten-free, peanut-free or dairy-free.

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Gaining in popularity is the use of NFC (Near Field Technology). By merely hovering a mobile phone, tablet or contactless bank card near a wireless payment terminal, customers can ensure that they are not touching any shared surfaces and make payments without risking their health. I currently do this at the grocery store and gas station but did not know the proper name. Watch for it at restaurants when the server brings a portable terminal to your table for payment. Some systems allow you to receive helpful details such as hours of business, menu options and even wait times and seating availability.

It’s estimated that contactless payments will triple from $2 trillion to $6 trillion worldwide by 2024, and having such options are reportedly extremely important for 34% of customers. With no cash needed, no human contact is required – more hygienic and safer – it’s quick, instant and convenient.

We are now getting familiar with making reservations online. Watch for the ability to select a specific table location in the establishment and order your drinks and appetizers in advance, all ready for when you arrive. The goal is to reduce waiting time. Restaurants can use these systems to manage seating, waitlists, customer loyalty and dining preferences as well as collect vital client data, be it for contact tracing or market insights.

Online ordering and delivery apps became very popular during COVID, and they continue to grow in popularity. This service is here to stay as diners grow accustomed to getting the food they want when, where and how they want it. The food delivery market is now worth more than $150 billion globally, which has more than tripled since 2017 largely attributed to the pandemic, according to statistics from McKinsey.

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All of these technology trends were on display at the National Restaurant Show in Chicago in May. In a future article I will introduce you to some new, state-of-the-art restaurant equipment.

We were rained out for the planned May 21 grilling demonstration at the Springfield Wabash Ace store. The new date is Saturday, June 11 with LLCC Chef Josh Dineen. LLCC culinary arts instructor Kim Carter will be at the Jacksonville Ace on June 25, and culinary coordinator Jolene Lamb will be grilling at the Ace in Taylorville on July 9, all at 10 a.m.

Jay Kitterman is the culinary and special events consultant at Lincoln Land Community College.

Want to know more?

Lincoln Land Community College offers associate degree programs in culinary arts and hospitality management, certificates in culinary arts and baking/pastry and non-credit community classes through the Culinary Institute.


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This article originally appeared on State Journal-Register: Here's how technology is transforming the restaurant experience