Technology & Equipment

How foodservice operators can meet consumers’ post-pandemic needs

College students eating
Photograph: Shutterstock

Even as consumers venture out to normal, post-pandemic life, they will retain some of the shifts in behavior and habits shaped by the pandemic. Social distancing and mask protocols may persist for some time, for example, but they will still value convenience and efficiency, and it will be critical for operators to balance those needs while still ensuring safety.

 Over the past year, the dining landscape in particular has been transformed, and many of these changes are likely to become long-term market trends. Takeout and delivery businesses, for example, are likely to continue to thrive even as customers return to dining facilities. According to the National Restaurant Association’s National Household Survey from December 2020, 53% of consumers (64% of Millennials) say purchasing takeout and delivery food is essential to the way they live.

But whether it’s for takeout or dining in, consumers don’t want to wait in lines for their food anymore; they demand speed and efficiency when ordering and picking up snacks and meals. And they are still wary of close contact with strangers, increasingly utilizing contactless ordering and payment systems. 

As pent-up demand for dining surges, foodservice operators are busy playing catch-up and are looking for ways to cope with acute labor, menu and operational issues. Here are some ways to ensure safety as well as customer satisfaction.

All-day eats

Snacking habits confirm that consumers are eating during more non-meal hours. According to Technomic’s 2020 Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report, 71% of consumers say they crave a snack in the afternoon, 23% admit to snacking in the morning, 45% in the evening and 32% of consumers are looking for a little something-something late at night. For many foodservice operators, that means keeping campus dining locations open 24/7 365 days a year. That’s a big ask. How can operators do that and still keep a lid on labor and food costs?

365 Retail Markets, with their 365Dining platform, has the answer: ReadyFlex POS is a completely flexible solution that allows an operator to switch between Cashier Mode and Self-Service mode to fit whatever situation their operation requires with the touch of a button.  The Cashier Mode is intuitive for staff training, eliminates errors and speeds transactions. The Self-Service mode offers a quick and easy interface which allows customers to make menu selections, customize their food order, scan barcoded items, and pay all on their own. The Cashier POS Mode is intuitive for staff training, eliminates errors and speeds transactions. The Self-Service kiosk mode is quick and easy for customers, who can just grab what they want, scan it, pay and go.

App-titude

People love using their smartphones: 26% of customers ordering takeout say the option of using an app to pre-order and pay for food would influence their choice of a place to eat, according to National Restaurant Association’s National Household Survey, December 2020.  A full 40% of tech-savvy Gen Zers agree.

365Dining’s OrderAhead fits the bill here. Customers can browse menus and order from the campus café without leaving their work or study space and schedule food pickup for whenever it suits them—perfect for clients with limited lunchtimes. For operators, OrderAhead allows them to better manage demand volumes and timing, so kitchens don’t get in the weeds.  Order Ahead can be accessed via the 365Pay app or the web.

Customers can use the 365Pay App with OrderAhead or at self-service kiosks, which let them skip the line for a speedier checkout. And, 365Pay has a built-in loyalty program for locations that want to take advantage of this benefit—that’s a big plus. Some 36% of customers ordering takeout say a loyalty and rewards program would influence their choice of dining venues, according to the NRA’s National Household Survey. 

Tying it all together

With a comprehensive, integrated management system, operators can quickly open or close dining stations, get real-time reports from the cloud and simultaneously update menus across all platforms, including registers, kiosks, menu boards and online.

Busy kitchens can ditch old-fashioned and inefficient paper tickets with 365Dining’s Kitchen Display System. With this technology, orders are created, stored and organized digitally, improving accuracy and speeding service. By analyzing ordering trends, operators can tweak menus and streamline kitchen operations.

In the dining areas, Digital Menu Boards actively engage customers; they can easily peruse choices without bothering to look at a menu at a kiosk. The Now Serving feature offers reassuring feedback: at a glance, customers know that their order has been received and is being prepared. The large signage can be seen from across a room and when the order is ready, directs guests to the pickup station.

Coming soon

This July, 365Dining will launch a new Locker pickup component. Only customers can access their designated, secure locker. And the boxes are insulated to maintain food temperatures. This new product will give foodservice operators an option for deliveries to remote locations or challenging environments.

365 Retail Markets is the global leader in unattended retail technologies and personalized partnerships with foodservice operators. 365 offers the widest selection of MicroMarket, vending, mobile, touchless and dining technologies that create a complete cutting-edge point-of-service platform for any business or location. Learn more about the 365 partnership at www.365retailmarkets.com

This post is sponsored by 365 Retail Markets

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