Digital trends with staying power

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Photograph courtesy of Custom Culinary®

Over the past 18 months, foodservice operators have adopted tech-based strategies at an accelerated pace. While keeping up with technology has always been an important area of focus for many noncommercial operators, it’s clear that digital ordering, payment, menus and rewards programs are going to remain critical parts of the foodservice landscape moving forward.

A look at trends in the restaurant space can also help noncommercial operators shape their digital strategy. For example, in 2019, 32% of consumers said they had positive feelings about automation in restaurants. That number has recently jumped to 52%l according to Datassential’s July 2021 webinar, “Simply Smarter Webinar: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back,as both operators and consumers have increased their reliance on food-related technology. In fact, 85% of consumers use food-centric mobile apps or are interested in doing so, according to that same webinar. Knowing that consumers are generally more comfortable with digital food technology than they have been in the past, noncommercial operators can tailor their offerings to meet customers’ expectations for safety, convenience and simplicity.

One example of a trend with legs is that of the creative digital menu. Noncommercial operators were likely ahead of the curve, already using digital menu boards to showcase daily meal options, special events and contests. Now that many restaurant operators have made the decision to ditch traditional paper printouts, digital menus are becoming more widely accepted as the norm throughout the industry. Linking digital menus to QR code landing pages presents an opportunity to integrate payment options into a single seamless system. May 2021 research  from Raydiant shows that 80% of consumers have used contactless payments in the past 12 months. These types of online ordering technologies can also help alleviate some of the operational stress presented by the current labor shortage.  

Even though online reviews may not carry the same weight to noncommercial operators as to their restaurant counterparts, it’s important for college campuses, schools and healthcare facilities to be aware of their digital presence and ensure that any platforms in use are kept up to date. Maintaining social media accounts and websites with accurate operating hours, phone numbers, website links and menus can go a long way in creating a positive dining experience for all customers. And, when applicable, post content in multiple languages in order to disseminate a consistent message. With rules and regulations changing at a rapid pace, it can be a challenge keeping your customers informed—but digital platforms serve as crucial tools for improving communications and transparency.

If bringing customers back on-site is of concern, consider offering a loyalty program to increase traffic. Whether it’s through BOGOs or bonus points, analyze the types of promotions that work best with guests and adjust future incentives accordingly. And don’t forget—employees need rewards too. Think about implementing a reward system to increase retention or even recruit new staff.

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This post is sponsored by Custom Culinary