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Contactless Menus and Dining: A Safety Strategy For Restaurant Servers And Guests

The COVID-19 pandemic has restaurants and customers on edge. Dining out was once a relaxing environment filled with friends, family, and food and has now transformed into a meal filled with anxiety. 

With viral videos showing just how fast germs spread in restaurants, customers are hyper-aware of their surroundings when dining out.

Now, on top of providing superior hospitality and cuisine, restaurants are forced to pivot their operations to also meet changing consumer demands for safe, contactless dining experiences.

Balancing new and developing consumer expectations along with the never-ending list of daily operational tasks can be tricky. 

But, by adopting new ordering technology and safety practices such as contactless menus, restaurants can provide everyone with an enjoyable dining experience in 2020 and beyond.

By the end of this guide, you’ll know:

  • What consumers are expecting from restaurants in this new era of dining
  • 7 ways your restaurant can provide a safe dining environment for all
  • How E-Waiters are revolutionizing the restaurant industry through contactless ordering

Recovering from 2020: What Restaurants Need to Do to Get Back on Their Feet for 2021

March and April 2020 resulted in extreme losses in restaurant revenue across the country, with some businesses experiencing as much as an 81% decline in year-over-year daily revenue

The National Restaurant Association even reported that the industry is estimated to lose as much as $240 billion by year’s end. And, Yelp sadly announced that 53% of restaurant closures on the platform are marked as permanent

However, customers aren’t about to let the restaurant industry collapse! Since absence makes the heart grow fonder, a study by NPD Group found that 67% of consumers want to visit restaurants physicallyon their terms.

When asked about what concerns they have about dining out post-COVID-19, consumers responded with the following:

  • Cleanliness of tables and prepared food (78%)
  • Touching a reusable menu (73%)
  • Cook/staff cleaning procedures and PPE (71%)
  • Bathroom cleanliness (70%)
  • Occupancy (69%)
  • Contact with waitstaff (60%)
  • Fans or A/C moving air (43%)

To feel secure in their choice to dine at a restaurant during a global pandemic, customers need to see restaurants taking active steps to meet these concerns. 

If restaurants want to make up for the revenue they lost during the beginning of the pandemic, as well as earn the trust of anxious diners, they have to play by the customer’s rules. This includes preparing and implementing a safety strategy for all and adopting contactless menu ordering technology.

Read: Why Every Restaurant Needs A QR Code Menu For Dine-In Guests In 2020

7 Ways Restaurants Can Build Trust With Customers By Keeping Everyone Safe

There are seven ways you can show customers you care about their safety when dining at your restaurant.

1. Ample Access to Hand Sanitizer

In a report from Technomic, approximately 55% of all surveyed consumers stated they expect to see more hand sanitizer dispensers inside restaurants. 

Having readily available access to hand sanitizer doesn’t place the burden on the customer to provide their own. It also demonstrates that your restaurant has an active safety strategy in place.

This simple safety measure can transform a customer’s visit from nerve-wracking to peaceful in a matter of seconds.

2. Signs of Continuous Cleaning

In the same report, 56% of consumers want to see staff visibly cleaning and sanitizing areas of high contact or traffic. 

To do this, your restaurant must come up with an ongoing sanitization and cleaning plan that meets the CDC guidelines. Work with your staff to develop a strategy that can be implemented well with your existing processes and provide customers a sense of relief simultaneously.

3. Require Masks & PPE

88% of diners agree that restaurant staff must be required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) when preparing food and serving customers.

Make sure your staff understands that PPE is not an option, it’s a requirement. Provide extra PPE for staff to access at the restaurant. This ensures that no one is ever without proper protection.

Also, require guests to wear masks when entering and walking around your establishment. This reduces the risk of spreading germs through the air or in high-contact areas.

The same study also found that the majority of customers would also be willing to pay $1-$9 extra to cover the costs associated with increased health and safety restrictions. 

4. Enhanced On-Site Communication 

With the ever-evolving instruction from the CDC, customers need ongoing and increased communication from restaurants to understand what rules they are to follow. 

Examples of enhanced communication can include:

  • Frequent social media updates about safety protocols
  • Implementing signage throughout the restaurant
  • Sending emails to reservation holders instructing guests on how to experience contactless dining
  • Additional safety reminders at each table

Surveyed consumers have stated that a written explanation of cleaning and dining procedures would be most appealing when deciding whether to dine out post-COVID-19.

Read: The Ultimate Guide To QR Code Restaurant Menus (+3 Steps To Get Started)

5. Stagger Employee Shifts

Without healthy and happy employees, your restaurant cannot operate effectively. With this in mind, do your best to stagger employee shifts to reduce the risk of potential germ spreading or increased contact.

Meet with your employees to develop a scheduling solution they are most comfortable with. This may include finding back-up staff members to accommodate times when existing staff become ill or need time off due to the pandemic.

6. Eliminate Reusable Items

Reusable cups, dishes, utensils—they all have to go. 

Due to the potential risk of cross-contamination with other guests, customers advocate for single-use dishes, utensils, and cups.

However, do you know what item has the most germs in a restaurant? The menu.

Plastic, laminated reusable menus are known to carry E. coli and other germs due to their frequent use and lack of cleansing. Yuck!

Your first thought might be to ditch the plastic menus and resort to printed menus. But after you print hundreds of menus each night only to throw them away, you’ll find yourself wondering if there’s a more sustainable approach. And there is!👇

7. Adopt Contactless Menu Technology

As a result of the pandemic, customers want to limit interaction with waitstaff and reusable menus alike for as much of a contactless experience as possible. 

To accommodate this, restaurants are turning to contactless menu technology.

Of course, you could use a static PDF menu. But, who wants to go through the hassle of pinching, zooming, and endlessly scrolling to read a menu? (That would be no one.)

You can also use a QR code menu. Customers can scan a QR code with their phone and browse through and interact with the restaurant’s menu using the user-friendly options. However, this still requires a waiter to come and write down the order.

Enter E-Waiter technology.

This full-service, contactless experience enables customers to browse through a menu, place an order, and call over a waiter only if necessary—all on their phone.

E-Waiters: Revolutionizing the Restaurant Industry and Bringing Us Closer to Normalcy

70% of customers state that dining out will make them feel normal again, amidst a season of great unpredictability. 

E-Waiters, like Jaac, are helping restaurants bridge the gap toward normalcy! This technology provides a safe, completely contactless dining experience for guests and servers.

Using a full-service E-Waiter, customers can:

  • Scan & Browse – Diners scan a QR code with their phone and instantly interact with a mobile-optimized menu customized for your restaurant. 
  • Call – If they have any questions about the menu or restaurant, customers can use the E-Waiter to call a server over.
  • Order – Customers can place orders right from their phones, including notifying the kitchen of allergies or customizations. No need to call over a waiter to jot down the order!
  • Pay – If You desire, your E-Waiter can accept payments via a credit card, PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and other methods.  

With the entire functionality of a waiter—with the exception of serving—all on their phone, customers only interact with wait staff if desired. 

Here’s a full overview of how it works.

3 Benefits of E-Waiter Technology for Restaurants Ready to Conquer COVID-19

On top of offering a contactless dining experience for customers, E-Waiters work to provide additional benefits such as:

1. Building Trust with Diners

Remember, customers are nervous about returning to restaurants. Providing a safety strategy that includes a contactless menu and ordering experience will prove to customers that they can trust your restaurant to provide a secure dining environment.

2. Easily Updatable Menus

Restaurants who opt for a PDF menu are stuck editing, uploading, and rearranging their menus every time an item runs out or the menu is changed.

Since this process is time-consuming and tedious, restaurants often forgo menu updates and rely on waiters to communicate the changes to guests instead. 

With an E-Waiter, restaurants can make changes to their menu in a matter of seconds. There’s no need to approach the table to inform customers about new specials, out-of-stock ingredients, or significant changes—it’s already on the menu!

3. Upselling & Cross-Selling Opportunities

Waiters are the champions of upselling and cross-selling. Their ability to read a table and offer the right (often more expensive) menu option is a seasoned talent. 

However, when waiter interactions are limited or non-existent, what can restaurants do to increase average order values?

(By now, you know the answer is the E-Waiter!)

E-Waiters suggest additional menu items to guests based on popularity or their current cart. This seamless functionality drives up total order value and convinces guests to add more to their meal without interaction from a waiter!

The Contactless Menus and E-Waiters Are The New Normal. Is Your Restaurant Ready? 

We built Jaac, the E-Waiter, to promote a contactless ordering experience for all, long before the pandemic.

With Jaac, customers can sit back, relax, and enjoy their meal and only interact with waiters when desired. And, restaurants can save on labor costs and reduce staff illness with limited customer interactions. E-Waiters are a win-win for everyone!

Coupled with spectacular service and mind-blowing meals, restaurants using E-Waiter technology are poised for success well beyond 2020. 

Plus, getting started with Jaac couldn’t be easier! 

Sign up today and we’ll upload your menu and send you QR codes for each table. Print them out and you’re ready to welcome customers back (but not with open arms of course. Keep that 6-foot distance!

📢 Try Jaac, the E-Waiter, today for 50% off and provide guests with a completely contactless dining experience.

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