Here are a few simple steps hospitality operators should consider.

Hospitality operators are rapidly turning to contactless ordering and payment solutions to help navigate the long road back to normal from COVID-19’s impacts. While it’s a smart innovation that some say is long overdue, the reality is operators are responding to customer demand. According to a recent study by Mastercard, 79 percent of respondents worldwide say they are now using contactless payments, citing safety and cleanliness as key drivers. In fact, Mastercard estimates over 40 percent growth in contactless transactions globally in the first quarter of 2020.

While contactless ordering and payment is here to stay, many operators remain concerned about how this new service model will impact their guest experience. Following are a few simple steps hospitality operators should consider:

Remember that guests come for the experience

Restaurateurs are facing a herculean effort just to produce and serve great food in this environment. But we also want to deliver a hospitable experience because we know that’s what guests crave. With so much focus on “going contactless,” it’s important to take steps to make sure guests feel welcome and supported in their dining experience. Yes, ordering and payment is important. But it’s really a small component of the overall dining experience. In this new environment, take steps to:

  • Elevate your servers to guides. Be intentional about how servers greet and introduce your guests to your establishment now that the ordering and payment process has changed.
  • Be attentive to your guests’ needs. Just because they can order on their own, it doesn’t mean they don’t need your support navigating the menu or finding something new to experience.

Make staff training a priority

Contactless ordering and payment involve a significant change in front-of-house operations for your guests and your staff. The most successful operators make an early and ongoing commitment and investment in staff training.

For guests, the goal is to make the experience so seamless that, beyond the enhanced control and flexibility they gain from browsing and ordering on their phones, they barely notice a difference. In order to accomplish this goal, the front-of-house team will need to learn about the experience from the guests’ perspective. Plan to have staff practice the new order and payment process as if they are guests. Make sure that your contactless order and payment provider offers a demo environment for this purpose. 

For staff, take time up front to eliminate unnecessary steps and find ways to maximize contactless interactions with guests. For example, when guests order for themselves, they experience fewer order errors. That makes it possible for staff to spend more time on other tasks that make the dining experience safer and more enjoyable, such as enhancing sanitation practices in restrooms and other common areas, and consulting with guests on menu and cocktail/wine pairing recommendations. These process changes need to be carefully reviewed with your team so that they’re clear on where to maximize their time.  

Map traffic flows and the physical layout of your space

Depending on local guidelines, your venue(s) may be operating with limited outdoor and indoor usable square footage and reduced staff. This makes for a challenging combination of juggling new traffic patterns while trying to reduce the physical and mental burden on staff. With contactless ordering and payment, think about the strategic placement of tables and their respective QR codes using a logical pattern that your staff will find easy to understand and recall.

If your venue supports dine-in, take-out, and delivery, use clear signage and staff guidance to make it easy for guests to know where to go for what. 

Plan for virtual help and real-time feedback

Contactless ordering and payment platforms will make it easier for your guests to communicate with you. Whereas before they may have flagged a staff member down to ask for a new order, make a change, or ask a question, now they may prefer to use the same device they’re ordering on to communicate with you. Make sure your staff are prepared to respond to in-bound texts and emails and have a process in place to address ones that can’t be answered in real-time. Also, be prepared to receive direct feedback on the experience, both the good and the bad. The best hospitality operators obsess over the guest experience. Contactless ordering and payment will give you the opportunity to get more feedback on a timely basis. This is valuable information that, if acted upon, can make a real difference in guest satisfaction and important factors like willingness to recommend and return visits. 

Incorporate rich imagery and multimedia

Because you can customize your contactless menu with engaging imagery, you can get beyond simply displaying your menu to actually selling it. With a user-friendly menu design complemented by high-quality photography, you can make the menu browsing experience both informative and enjoyable. And you’re not just limited to photography. Savvy operators are incorporating video into their contactless menus to make the browsing experience more immersive and engaging.

Get cozy with your data

Your contactless ordering and payment platform should allow you to get a holistic view of customer and sales information. Consider monitoring metrics such as:

  • Sales Per Hour & Per Shift (Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner)
  • Tabs Per Hour & Per Shift
  • Top Selling Items & High Margin F&B Items (Greatest Hits & Platinum Margins)
  • Product Mix (PMIX)
  • Trends 
  • Customer Feedback
  • Purchase and Repurchase Patterns

Savvy operators are gaining greater insight and control of their end-to-end customer experience using metrics like these to manage their operations, improve their customer experience, and increase their profitability.

Since 2016, Tim McLaughlin has served as Co-Founder and CEO of GoTab, Inc., a leading contactless ordering and payment platform serving more than 500 large & mid-sized full-service food & beverage establishments in almost 30 states and growing. An experienced executive and board member, McLaughlin led Siteworx, Inc., a mid-sized digital experience agency with clients including PayPal, Goldman Sachs, VeriSign, Bain & Co., and Thermo Fisher Scientific, to a successful PE exit in 2013. Subsequent to Siteworx, Tim co-founded and operated Caboose Brewing Co., an upscale brewery and farm-to-table concept based in Fairfax, Virginia. Many of GoTab’s most important features were incubated at Caboose.

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