Dining in New York has taken a dramatic turn during the COVID-19 pandemic, upsetting thousands of restaurateurs who were forced to pivot their business model. The coronavirus appears to have accelerated the future of the hospitality industry, with many turning to tech to help them recover.
As businesses turn to find ways to stay afloat, high tech solutions have been used to preserve many of these establishments – and not just online ordering.
“Restaurants are switching gears now. Going to kiosks, mobile or online ordering, using a third-party delivery source – that’s what your future is,” said Sam Zietz, the CEO of GRUBBRR, a payment technology company that focuses on contactless payment, ordering systems and other technologies.
According to Zietz, it’s been a long time coming for hospitality, calling restaurants ‘notorious laggards in technology’ with the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix’ mentality. He likens the movement toward other industries, such as in travel or banking.
“Within other industries, they had a similar evolution. Tellers and banks, what happened? We went to online banking and ATMs. Very rarely do you see tellers anymore,” said Zietz.
Comparing to restaurants, the role of cashier may seem obsolete. By cutting out the middleman, businesses save money, and every penny can count when the Big Apple still stomachs unknowns with the fate of indoor dining.
Effective last Friday, indoor dining resumed at 25 percent capacity across the state of New Jersey, including similar measures for movie theaters and indoor performances. During the same week, New York is still facing backlash for not having any plans in place.
In a news conference last Wednesday, Mayor de Blasio noted the concerns and offered a timeline to finalize the decision.
“We’ve been honest with the restaurant industry about the challenge. But I’ve also heard back that folks just want a final answer so they can make their plans up and down. I think it’s our responsibility to give them as clear an answer in the month of September as possible of where we’re going,” the mayor said.
To that end, during a teleconference that same day, Gov. Andrew Cuomo “would like to see restaurants open” but put the emphasis on a lack of compliance on bars and law enforcement.
With restaurants left in the dark, forward thinking can become a guiding light. SevenRooms CEO Joel Montaniel strongly feels that personalized service, using tech to create a ‘360 degree’ view of the consumer, is necessary going forward with Covid.
SevenRooms is a hospitality guest experience platform using solutions from reservation management, contactless order and pay, guest profiles and marketing.
“Most importantly, we are helping restaurants build on their guests. For anyone who has opted into the restaurant marketing, we’re using that information to reach back out to guest automatically in a personalized manner,” said Montaniel.
In his example, if you typically order delivery twice a month, but you haven’t ordered anything in the last month, the system will automate a personalized ‘we miss you’ and offer a favorite, complimentary item in your next order.
According to Montaniel, an interesting trend has been seeing an uptick of fine dining establishments now turning to this tech, which historically they have shied away from.
“They launched it out of necessity. The contactless ordering at the table, it’s really picked up. We see new clients and those we’d never have guessed would have done given the circumstances,” Montaniel said.
To him, it’s doing whatever is necessary to survive as he shared his clients’ biggest concern is the feeling of uncertainty – ‘how long will I have to do this?’. However, it is the fighting uncertainty with regulation. Based off of a recent YouGov and SevenRooms study, more than 1 in 5 Americans specified that they would revisit a restaurant given a promotion or deal.
According the same study, 13% of Americans will only dine out at restaurants with contactless options. In the same vain, one NYC restaurateur is taking contactless to another level – launching a completely zero human interaction quick service restaurant dishing up dumplings.
Founder of Brooklyn Dumpling Shop, Stratis Morfogen originally concocted his own idea in 2019, keeping the Amazon locker system in mind. To him, coronavirus only reinforced the contactless demand with a twist return of the old-fashioned automat.
“In 2019 I actually wrote a business plan bringing back the automat. The automat is the most effective, cost-efficient way to deliver a product. I started researching Horn & Hardart, the founder of the automat in 1895 and how it exploded,” he said.
He likens the current times to…