COVID-19 has changed life as we knew it. In-person dining and shopping are gone, with masks and social distancing measures required for the businesses who decide to reopen. However, the decline of in-person purchasing comes with the rise of automated ordering methods. Kiosks have especially increased in popularity, with a MarketsandMarkets report stating that by 2023, the global interactive kiosk market is expected to reach $30.53 billion.

Even though phased reopening is occurring, restaurants are not exactly able to go back to normal; thousands of cases still pop up every day in the United States. Restaurants should offer as many ordering solutions as possible so that every customer can order in the way that’s most comfortable for them. Contactless solutions, including contactless menus, apps, and kiosks, are particularly in-demand for restaurants.


What is contactless dining?

Contactless dining is a restaurant operational model that existed before COVID-19, but is now becoming essential to the restaurant industry’s present and future. This model means that there is no contact between employees and customers, and face-to-face contact and conversation are greatly diminished in the ordering, payment, and pick-up processes.

Contactless dining can be achieved with a multitude of technological solutions. To eliminate reusable menus, for instance, contactless ordering can occur through kiosks or a QR code. Contactless kiosks can be wiped down between each use, and QR codes allow customers to pull up the restaurant’s virtual menu with a quick smartphone scan. After browsing this menu, customers can order directly from the contactless ordering platform.


What are the benefits of contactless dining?

There are many benefits that come with embracing contactless dining. Above all, keeping restaurants open during COVID-19 is the most significant reason to introduce contactless solutions. For instance, with the help of contactless ordering, the owners of Sus Hi Eatstation, a Florida sushi chain, were able to sustain and even expand their business in these challenging times.

Whether through a menu QR code or a self-ordering kiosk, contactless dining solutions make the ordering process much more efficient as customers can select exactly what they want. Long after the pandemic subsides, order errors are greatly minimized and labor costs are reduced through contactless dining. Existing employees can be re-trained to make contactless dining as quick and smooth as possible.

Finally, restaurants that offer contactless ordering generate more revenue through more effective and profitable upselling. While waitstaff can upsell, their attempts are often irritating to customers and perceived as pushy. Employees might also forget to try to upsell. A self-service kiosk and contactless ordering app will both offer an upsell with every single order, every time. Merely offering add-ons that customers probably already desire, automated upselling via contactless tech is extremely profitable.


So, how can you create a contactless dining experience?

As mentioned, a contactless dining experience can be created with many technologies: self-ordering kiosks, mobile POS systems, contactless QR menu codes, food lockers, and more.

Self-ordering kiosks are already becoming permanent fixtures of the contactless dining experience. Customers generally love using kiosks, as they improve order accuracy, offer customization, and cut wait times. Businesses benefit by increasing revenue, upsell opportunities, and overall efficiency. Self-ordering kiosks provide COVID-specific advantages as well, making them an invaluable option during the pandemic.

While customers can order from most restaurants online or by phone, many like to stop in and order. With a self-service kiosk inside of the establishment, customers can safely place an order. They will be distanced from employees and other customers properly, because multiple kiosks prevent the occurrence of long lines and close contact. Employees will not have to make unnecessary contact with customers, as they simply hand over the order or place it on a rack for the customer to pick up.

There are misconceptions that kiosks are unsanitary, due to the fact that many people touch them. However, kiosks can be easily cleaned by employees, a faster process than cleaning countertops. Also, kiosks are sanitary in that the customer only touches their own forms of payment when checking out, so employees don’t handle customers’ cash and cards. This decreases the risk of transmission between staff and customers.

Businesses and customers ultimately have a more satisfactory experience when ordering with kiosks. The lack of in-person dining has caused an increase in ordering from the drive-through, online, or by phone. Employees have to speak with these customers, which can lead to long lines in the restaurant.

Self-ordering kiosks allow for orders to come in seamlessly without the back-and-forth conversation. Employees can thus attend to other tasks that keep the business successful and clean. Customers also have a new, contactless way to order that is quick and self-paced.

The number one priority during COVID-19 is keeping everyone safe, from customers to employees. Therefore, restaurants must implement new procedures that make their establishment a safe place, and self-ordering kiosks are a great way to do so. There are companies that will help you every step of the way to integrate kiosks and, in this unprecedented time, this solution is the best investment you can make for your business.

Is contactless dining the future of food service?

There is no doubt: contactless ordering solutions are here to stay. Many benefits offered by contactless tech are not specific to the pandemic. Further, the pandemic has, in many ways, revealed inefficiencies and opportunities to reimagine the traditional restaurant model. While contactless operations currently offer much-needed safety, other pluses, such as saving on labor costs and generating revenue through automated upselling, are certainly here to stay.