8 Restaurant Technologies that Help Keep Employees and Customers Safe

As restaurants slowly reopen from COVID shutdowns, they face immense challenges in making customers feel safe to come in and eat.

Many restaurants have adopted rigorous cleaning routines while others decided to stick to a primarily to-go business model.

However you decide to reopen your restaurant, the most important thing you must consider is how you’re going to keep your employees safe while they serve your customers.

Helping your employees maintain their health has several benefits. Chief among them is that it communicates to your employees that you care about them as a person, not just as an asset to your business. The satisfaction an employee gets from this can trickle down to your customers, and to your community at large.

Even so, keeping up with the latest guidelines and state orders is a daunting task in and of itself. To help you make good decisions about the health of your employees and customers, here are eight pieces of technology that can help ensure your business is safe for your community to enjoy.

  1. Online Ordering

While the sheer volume of technology available to help keep your employees safe continues to increase, upgrading your online ordering system should be the piece that is implemented.

To-go sales were already rapidly increasing before the COVID pandemic began thanks to the efforts of third-party delivery services like Grubhub and Doordash. However, once the Stay-at-Home and Safer-at-Home orders were announced, online ordering became the way to order from restaurants.

Signifyd, an eCommerce research company, found that online and curbside pickup orders spiked by 248 percent between the end of May and the first week of June. Ecommerce orders overall are up over 40 percent since the pandemic began.

Online ordering not only allows restaurants to maintain revenues, it also allows business owners to control the distance between employees and customers. Customers can pay for their food after completing their orders, all from the safety of their home. Some businesses utilize shelves for customers to pick up finished orders while others use curbside pickup methods.

Even though a website optimization plan that includes eCommerce features can cost between $5,000 and $10,000, it can be worth the expense to keep both your customers and employees safe and healthy.

  1. HERO Software

Utilizing an increasingly digitized means of communicating with customers is rife with challenges. Chief among them is interacting with your customers the same way you would if they came into your business.

For restaurants, this phenomenon can be especially pernicious. There is almost no way to convince a customer to try a new dish when all they have to interact with are a couple of pictures and a brief description.

To help solve this problem, HERO, a software company headquartered in New York City developed a platform that allows businesses to interact with customers as if they were in a store together.

HERO’s platform allows customers to instantly connect with businesses via text, video, and chat. This allows business owners to provide services on a personal level while ensuring employees and customers maintain a safe distance from one another.

  1. Contactless Payment

Maximizing the distance between your employees and your customers is a crucial element of the COVID-induced world of social distancing and heightened awareness for unclean surfaces.

Contactless payment systems allow your customers to make purchases by tapping their card or another payment device on a point-of-sale terminal that is equipped with contactless payment software, ensuring that the payment device is never handed to your employees.

Also known as tap-and-go payment, contactless payment systems are secure methods for customers to make purchases using debit cards, credit cards, key fobs, or smartcards by using RFID technology or near-field communication (NFC).

Cards made by merchants such as Visa and MasterCard already have this technology preloaded into chip cards your customers carry in their pockets.

And upgrading your POS terminal to handle contactless payment is not as painful as it sounds either. There are several products on the market that include tap-and-go payment options. One example is Fattmerchant by Omni which includes several contactless payment options like text-to-pay, virtual portals, and touch-free devices.

  1. Text-based Waitlist and Reservation Systems

Most states are requiring restaurants to reopen at a limited capacity to promote social distancing and allow for increased sanitization. For some well-established restaurants, these ordinances have increased wait times and masses of people near restaurants waiting to be seated.

Seeing long lists of reservations and lines stretching down the block may be good signs in other settings, but they can endanger employees by increasing the number of people they come into contact with.

To help protect your employees and adhere to state-mandated social distancing requirements, consider enlisting the help of one of several text-based reservations and waitlist apps that allow your customers to nab their spot in line without leaving their home.

For example, SMS Reservations allows its users to customize their hours of operation and menu items with the click of a button. This helps restaurant managers respond appropriately to fluctuations in their business.

  1. Yelp’s COVID-19 Help Features

Another online resource that helps control the flow of customers in and out of restaurants is Yelp’s COVID-19 Help Features. They include QR code waitlists, capacity monitors, and manual waitlist controls.

Business owners can also communicate to customers any decisions to increase or lower their dine-in capacity, if there is hand sanitizer available, and any in-house rules concerning face masks.

These features are not just for business owners either. Customers can leave reviews about whether a restaurant is promoting social distancing and abiding by the latest CDC guidelines.

  1. Self-Ordering Kiosks

In the post-COVID future, self-ordering kiosks will play a pivotal role in maintaining restaurant sales and employee safety.

The first obvious benefit is that kiosks allow customers to order and pay for their food without interacting with another employee. Kiosks also provide a few essential elements that order and pay apps for smartphones cannot, like the ability to print identifiable tags.

Second, kiosks can serve as a secure means of allowing customers to pick up their orders. For example, Little Cesar’s Pizza Portal keeps a customer’s order secure until they arrive and punch in a unique code to unlock the kiosk. This drastically decreases the number of people who touch and handle orders.

Third, and maybe most importantly, kiosks largely remove cash from restaurant operations. It is well documented how dirty cash can be, and in a time of increased scrutiny over sanitization, it makes sense for businesses to start phasing cash out of their operations.

There are several companies currently producing self-ordering kiosks for restaurants, and at various price points. NCR currently offers models between $200 and $1000 for basic self-ordering kiosks. Other companies such as TouchBistro offer more interactive kiosks in the $2000 to $3000 range.

  1. Commercial Body Heat Scanners

While self-ordering kiosks offer restaurants an impersonal means of doing business, another important element they bring to the table is body heat scanning. Some kiosks will log the temperature of customers who touch the screen and reject orders from customers with body temperatures that are too high.

However, not all self-ordering kiosks offer this service, which makes it imperative for restaurants to have multiple means of taking the temperatures of both their employees and customers to ensure everyone can work and eat in a safe environment.

For restaurant employees, managers should utilize handheld temperature scanners like the ones made by ThermoWorks or iHealth Labs. However, these scanners require the users to be in close proximity to one another.

To help businesses take the temperature of multiple people at once, Seek Thermal developed its Seek Scan technology to help business owners maintain a safe distance between themselves and their customers.

Seek Scan works just like a camera sitting on a tripod. The only difference is that Seek Scan doesn’t capture Kodak moments. Instead, it quickly reads the body temperature of anyone who passes through its scan radius, allowing its user to catch anyone who has too high of a body temperature and ask them to leave.

  1. FutureWork

Developed by altumAI in 2017, FutureWork has suddenly risen to prominence among health and safety software products by helping restaurants ensure their employees return to work safely.

The software is available as an app and offers business owners:

  • Safety screening recording and reporting
  • Biometric recording and reporting
  • Communicating CDC and FDA guidelines
  • Providing worker specific micro-training
  • Monitoring contact tracing
  • Enabling seamless communication
  • Enforcing workflow and policies to manage risk

For employees, the benefits of the software are just as grand. The software calculates a risk score based on the biometric data provided by employees, which can help employees understand their risk of contracting COVID, or any other communicable disease, and take preventative measures.

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