Customer ordering habits have shifted dramatically since the start of the pandemic, and they are unlikely to shift back completely.
Whereas traditionally customers would enter a restaurant, order their food at the point of sale (POS), then leave with their meals, orders are now coming in from digital devices, at the drive thru, and at kiosks. In fact, 90 percent of transactions pre-COVID were rung up at a traditional POS, but now almost 70 percent of them are rung up elsewhere, says Chris Lybeer, chief strategy officer at Revel Systems.
“It was happening prior to COVID,” he explains. “We saw consumers doing things to drive transactions in different locations, but with COVID came the digital tsunami that completely changed the trajectory of ordering. Restaurants are now trying to get business through all channels.”
And, he adds, while the number of places customers can order from has increased, it’s likely to do so again—and again. “The list of places today is just for today,” Lybeer says. “In 20 years, we could be ordering from holograms.”
So, restaurants need to think beyond the traditional POS system and think about where and how their customers are ordering. Giving them the ability to place their transaction in the way that best suits them is a great way to ensure they come back.
“What people need to realize is this isn’t about adapting because of COVID, this is speeding up the acceleration of consumers wanting to be digital and flexible,” Lybeer explains. “The industry doesn’t have any choice but to follow where the consumers are going.”
And this is particularly key in quick-serve and fast-casual restaurants, partly, he says, because these restaurants are less about dine-in, but also because the operators of them are usually innovators, open to new technology.
Revel offers a holistic cloud-native transaction platform that allows orders to be placed “almost anywhere.” And the key is, as new ordering points become available, they can be added seamlessly to Revel’s platform, rather than creating a completely new solution. What’s critical is these orders are all coordinated and managed by the Revel platform to ensure customers receive their meal in a timely fashion.
Restaurant operators, Lybeer points out, need to buy technology that’s going to take them through constant change. And the technology “has to be flexible and stretch over this period of time. People don’t want to do a major upgrade every two years. You have to buy the best thing for tomorrow; you have to buy the architectural and philosophical components of the technology, not a list of functions. You have to be thinking long-term.”
Once COVID is over, customers will come back to dining rooms, Lybeer believes, but not in the numbers they did before the pandemic. “Even younger people like service, and I don’t think they want to go to a world where there’s nobody in the store and robots are cooking the burgers, and they are served in a bag on a conveyor belt. This is the hospitality industry, and people want service—there is value to that. But there’s not a lot of value in the traditional ordering system. Let people order on their phone or on a self-service kiosk, and let the service be elsewhere, such as a greeter who welcomes guests and tells them the specials.”
To learn more about Revel can help you prepare for this digital revolution, visit the company’s website.
By Amanda Baltazar