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How Restaurants Will Shift Back to Indoor Dining When Outdoor Dining is No Longer an Option

Indoor dining - waiter with mask
Photo Credit: Los Angeles Times

Since the coronavirus pandemic forced restaurants to close their brick-and-mortar facilities, ISVs and their value-added reseller (VAR) channels have developed innovative solutions to help keep their clients’ businesses operating. At first, the demand was for solutions that enabled ordering and curbside or drive-through pickup. Then, when restrictions began to lift around the same time that warmer weather returned to many areas of the country, many restaurants adapted again to establish outdoor dining areas where fresh air, sunlight and socially distanced tables helped keep guests and employees safer from contracting COVID-19. Now that days are getting shorter, and there’s a chill in the air, restaurants, still operating under the shadow of the pandemic, are turning to their ISVs and VARs for indoor dining solutions that will position their businesses to bring in the maximum possible revenue.  

The Space Problem

Unlike creating restaurant dining areas outside, which provided businesses with additional space to keep diners at a safe distance, moving back indoors means a loss of dining room area. Many restaurants will still be subject to health safety guidelines, so their once-space-optimized dining rooms may be operating at only 25 percent to 50 percent capacity. And the diminished capacity is far less than needed to keep a restaurant afloat. Furthermore, customers may have been comfortable sitting outside in the sun, knowing the rate of transmission is much smaller there. They may not, however, want to dine inside an enclosed dining room – and touch shared items such as menus, condiment containers and PIN pads, even with staff visibly cleaning them.  

Indoor Dining Solutions

Technology provides answers to the newest challenges that restaurants are facing in 2020 with solutions such as:

Online ordering

When the pandemic hit in March, a greater number of people ordered meals for takeout or delivery so they could enjoy them at home. It’s likely that diners who were comfortable with outdoor, but not indoor, dining will return to this practice this fall.

If your restaurant clients responded to shutting their dining rooms by partnering with a third-party online ordering platform, it might have helped them keeping revenues coming in and keeping their employees on staff, but third-party ordering platforms can have a downside for restaurants. They aren’t free. Tech Crunch reports that a meal ordered and delivered by a third-party service can cost anywhere from 17 percent to 40 percent. At a time when restaurants need to hang onto as much of their profits as possible, the capability to accept online orders directly can make or break a business.

You can help your clients build an online presence by extending the functionality of their point of sale (POS) system to accept orders and secure payments online. Furthermore, with their own online solutions, customer and operational data collected belongs to your client, not a third party. Pandemic or not, restaurants can leverage this data to make intelligent decisions about their menus, customer behaviors, labor schedules and more to market more effectively and to market more effectively, keeping their customers engaged even if they don’t see them face-to-face in an outdoor dining area.

Takeout and delivery management

When a restaurant shifts from primarily on-premises to off-premises dining, the staff needs different solutions to operate most efficiently and profitably. If your client attempted to shift from a table service to a delivery and takeout model earlier this year, they will recognize the value of replacing manual, error-prone processes with streamlined, tech-enabled operations. Integrate the POS system you provide with additional functionality, including: 

  • Labeling: Labels that streamline order prep and ensure that customers get the right menu items. The restaurant may also benefit from an upgraded printer that produces both receipts and high-quality labels that reflect positively on the restaurant’s brand.
  • Delivery management: This software tracks orders, delivery status, and customer data. It also helps managers plan the most efficient routes to maximize the return each time a driver heads out. It also reduces the chances of the wrong orders delivered to customers.
  • Omnichannel payments: A full-featured omnichannel payments solution will give your clients the agility to accept payments online when customers are ordering for takeout or delivery or paying in-house at a counter, a kiosk or on a pay-at-the-table device. With an omnichannel payments solution, all of those options are available to your clients, so it’s easier for them to pivot to a different model when needed. Additionally, if they’re managing revenue streams on different channels at the same time, payments can be managed from a single platform.

Touchless in-house dining solutions

Some customers will opt for table service in the dining room when permitted, but they’ll expect the restaurant’s staff to have systems in place to ensure their health. Discuss touch-free options with your restaurant clients, such as enabling near-field communications (NFC) payments with mobile wallets or contactless payment cards. Your client may prefer a consumer-facing solution that allows diners to preview menus, place orders and make payments on their smartphones.

The Trusted Advisor, Inside and Out

With all of the challenges that restaurants have faced in 2020, they’ve never needed a trusted advisor more. On the verge of a new season requiring adapting restaurant operations again, they need your technology expertise as well as the knowledge and best practices you are learning from your network.

Sharing that information will help you strengthen your relationships and ensure your client base continues to weather the current crisis and be ready to face what lies ahead.

Help your restaurant merchants transition back to safe indoor dining!