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Could mobile apps help restaurants reopen by offering a safer, contactless way to serve dine-in patrons?

Nearly all businesses have been hard hit by this pandemic. Yet the restaurant industry faces some unique challenges as establishments confront how best to keep patrons and staff safe upon reopening. How can they minimize contact points, ensure safe distancing, and instill confidence in customers? As I consider all of the ways the dining experience will change in the wake of this current pandemic, I think about the way mobile device apps have grown during the current crisis and about the great promise they hold going forward. They offer a contact-free way to order and pay for food, even for dine-in patrons, and provide a significant upside for customer experience, servers, and the restaurant itself in terms of order accuracy, efficiency, and social engagement (Related: to manage all of the features a mobile app can provide for your customers, you need a network that rises to the occasion and strong Guest Wi-Fi services to support the expanded demand apps and additional devices add to the network. Learn more about an SD-WAN solution here).

With an app, a patron can review menu items and make food or drink choices in advance, speeding up the ordering process. The restaurant can additionally make recommendations and offer special promotions or add-ons, or even call up past orders to recommend as a re-order or to select past favorites. Of course, contactless payment is a benefit of an app as well.Some restaurant chains have been utilizing tabletop ordering and payment devices for the last few years. But they still require customers to touch a surface that others may have touched; and device costs can be prohibitive for many. At the same time, most have a mobile app in place to support secondary functions, like take-out and delivery orders. Since the mobile app resides on the customer’s personal device, it’s a safe surface that only they touch.

Relying more on a mobile app can also improve a restaurant’s processes. For example, if patrons make reservations and place orders in advance, a restaurant will be better able to manage inventory and can prepare the prep line for upcoming food orders for quicker, more efficient service. Another key advantage is eliminating the need for printed menus that must be cleaned after each use or printed daily.

Servers and wait-staff can still offer in-person advice and guidance, but their primary role would be focused on welcoming the customer and delivering food. The app, however, can expand a restaurant’s ability to share information and provide enhanced service. Imagine a virtual sommelier being able to interact with and provide product knowledge or recommendations to a table of diners.

I am intrigued by the many ways a restaurant app might transform both restaurant operations and the dining experience, making it safer (and more efficient) for servers and staff to do their jobs while giving patrons the confidence they need to go out to eat with friends and family. I, for one, am hungry for that type of experience!