While food safety has always been a priority for those in the foodservice industry, the COVID-19 pandemic revealed how much more dining establishments could be doing to safeguard patrons’ health and pushed industry leaders to develop innovative solutions. Touchless technology quickly became one of the most popular mid-pandemic dining solutions due to the numerous health and safety benefits it offers.
If you work in the foodservice industry, integrating touchless technology into your operations could greatly benefit your business. Learn more about the details of touchless technology, why this tech is so popular and how specific touchless foodservice technologies can improve your business.
What Is Touchless Technology?
As the name suggests, touchless technology is any device that you can operate or use without physically touching it. Common examples of these touch-free human-machine interfaces include camera-based gestures, voice recognition, eye-tracking tech and proximity-enabled touchless screen technology.
Touchless technology works by enabling computer systems to take directions via voice, facial patterns, user behaviors or physical movements, such as hand gestures. After taking in this information, the systems rely on their preset algorithms to process these signals and complete the user’s desired action.
When paired with other technological advancements, such as artificial intelligence, touchless technology can equip businesses and organizations with integrated solutions that enhance the employee and visitor experience. In this way, touchless tech enables corporations to overcome certain vulnerabilities in their infrastructure to provide a more valuable service.
Specifically, touch-free technology prioritizes health and safety precautions, ensures streamlined customer service and improves the effectiveness of administrative tools. Along these lines, touchless technology is the answer for issues such as germs spreading due to high-touch surfaces, excessively long lines for customer service and efficient building maintenance.
Essentially, touchless technology allows a business or organization to operate more smoothly overall while protecting the health of its workers and visitors.
The Rise of Touchless Foodservice Technology
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic produced an unprecedented demand for touch-free tech, touchless technology had been steadily taking over the foodservice industry. Foodservice managers who were particularly forward-thinking, tech-savvy or health-conscious were already beginning to recognize the value of offering touchless tech like contactless payment options.
Once COVID-19 cases began to surge, the need for touchless tech within foodservice accelerated exponentially. Consumers began to expect foodservice providers to protect their health and safety by offering touchless tech to make placing an order safer. In addition to 86% of customers saying a restaurant’s cleanliness was very important to them, 80% of customers said they would avoid a restaurant if they had concerns about its COVID-19 safety practices.
However, if a restaurant took extra COVID-19 safety precautions and proactively communicated those measures to its patrons, 66% of consumers said the likelihood of them ordering from that restaurant would strongly increase. As a result, a restaurant’s survival depended on demonstrating its commitment to health and safety by meeting these customer expectations.
To ensure a safe and healthy customer experience, many foodservice coordinators turned to touchless technology solutions. Touchless tech offered multiple benefits for shielding consumers from illness by promoting cleanliness, contactless dining, social distancing and savings on restaurant costs.
Among the food safety changes adopted by restaurants during the pandemic, limited contact was at the forefront. Touchless technology became key for minimizing contact between consumers and foodservice workers by providing solutions such as contactless payment and deliveries as well as digital menus to cut down on the shared items within a restaurant.
Thanks to touchless foodservice tech, many restaurants reopened smoothly and continued doing business throughout the pandemic by following the required safety procedures. These necessary protocols included upholding strict food, safety and hygiene standards as well as providing service that is as contactless as possible. In this way, COVID-19 fast-tracked the development and implementation of touchless foodservice technology.
Although touchless foodservice technology arose as the hero of the hour during the COVID-19 pandemic, touch-free tech is not a passing fad. As these initially short-term solutions start to take root, restaurant managers and consumers alike are growing to appreciate the innovation and convenience of touchless foodservice tech. In fact, many prefer these high-tech solutions to the old ways of dining.
Furthermore, statistics suggest that touchless foodservice technology is here to stay. Because COVID-19 deeply impacted so many people’s ways of behaving in public and consumer behavior trends, 76% of restaurant owners plan to continue offering touchless foodservice technology. In particular, 88% of restaurants will stick with using digital menus instead of physical menus, and 61% of restaurants are keeping their contactless payment systems. Based on these numbers, the post-pandemic norm will most likely involve plenty of touchless foodservice technology and contactless dining.
3 Touchless Foodservice Technologies for Your Business
To get a clearer picture of how touchless technology can impact the foodservice industry well beyond the pandemic, check out these three cutting-edge touchless foodservice technologies:
1. Mobile Payments
Mobile pay is an excellent touchless technological tool because it allows customers to complete a transaction by simply scanning or swiping their screen. With hand hygiene standing out as a major point of health and safety, a touch-free payment method is a perfect solution for preventing patrons and workers from frequently exchanging cash, cards and change.
Along with eliminating contact between the customer and restaurant employee, mobile pay can speed up the check-out process. Making transferring money quicker and easier will enhance the customer experience by getting them through the line faster and reducing any crowding near the register.
While mobile payment options are already popular among quick-service industry giants, such as Starbucks, Chipotle and McDonald’s, many foodservice establishments have yet to offer mobile pay. However, this could change as more and more restaurants seek to provide more contactless services. Other restaurants can quickly catch up if they join the mobile pay club sooner rather than later.
There is a wide variety of mobile payment apps available for foodservice coordinators to choose from, including big names like Apple Pay and Google Pay, as well as up-and-coming brands like Square Cash and Venmo. As long as an establishment has an up-to-date point-of-sale (POS) platform, adding mobile pay should simply require a software upgrade and compatible devices to operate smoothly.
2. Automated and Smart Equipment
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, automated and smart equipment are becoming increasingly popular in commercial kitchens. From assembly line robots that can slice, dice and mix ingredients to vending machine-style salad dispensers, touch-free automated food prep solutions continue to hit the market. This type of touchless foodservice technology ensures completely contactless dining.
Most automated and smart equipment are fairly new innovations and may come with a hefty price tag. However, numerous more affordable pieces of cooking equipment incorporate touchless technology, such as touchless water filters and beverage dispensers. Getting familiar with these smaller items is a great way to build up to investing in larger touchless tech equipment.
3. Digital Menus
Switching to digital menus can solve multiple issues facing those within the foodservice industry. These are some of the main perks that come with using digital menus:
- Improved hand hygiene: Digital menus means diners never actually touch the menus.
- Less time cleaning: Unlike traditional laminated menus, digital menus do not need to be periodically sanitized or wiped down after each use.
- Easier to update: A digital menu can be updated for little expense and effort because small edits can be made without replacing the entire menu.
- Advanced browsing for customers: Having a digital menu available allows customers to look over the menu before sitting down so they’re ready to order sooner.
Dining services can either request that customers view the digital menu on their phone or provide a digital menu at the table. Keep in mind that if a digital menu is provided at the table, it will either need to feature a touchless screen, or the food service workers will need to thoroughly clean these menus after each party leaves to minimize the risk of spreading germs.
Setting up a simple mobile app can be a convenient way for consumers to view a digital menu as well as place their orders. A mobile app also serves as an easy way to offer contactless payment.
American Food & Vending Touchless Solutions
Investing in touchless foodservice technology can help your business stay current and attract more customers. Especially as the coronavirus continues to raise concerns regarding food safety and hand hygiene, touchless technology can set your business apart from other dining options.
If you’re ready to explore your touchless foodservice technology options, check out these innovative touch-free solutions from American Food & Vending:
- Touchless nano markets: A contactless miniature market allows customers to grab the items they need quickly, scan their phone to pay and get on their way without ever having to exchange cash or a card. In this way, a touchless nano market is beneficial for healthy hand hygiene as well as more convenient for busy grocery shoppers.
- Touchless vending options: A vending machine can be made touch-free by incorporating kick plates and elbow pulls that allow consumers to access their beverage or snack without risking their hand hygiene.
- Touchless coffee dispensers: With a touchless coffee dispenser, consumers can receive their morning brew by simply entering their usual coffee order on their mobile device. Customers can also use their phones to pay for their cup of joe, making their coffee purchasing experience entirely touchless.
- Touchless beverage stations: A touchless beverage station offers endless flavors, sparkling and filtered still water. Unlike traditional self-serve beverage stations, a touchless beverage station lets customers use their phones to make their beverage selections and avoid contacting high-touch surfaces.
- Touchless water filtration system: As a hands-free way to stay hydrated, a touchless water filtration system dispenses water whenever someone steps on one of its foot pedals. The contactless water filter features two foot pedals — one for cold water and one for hot water.
Additional Ways to Implement Touchless Foodservice Technology
Making the switch the contactless technology solutions, such as the ones listed above, can be surprisingly simple. A foodservice coordinator can implement pieces of touchless technology in their business in several ways. Often, fully transitioning to touchless food technologies is a gradual process so choosing to start with just one item of touchless tech and working up to more is perfectly fine.
If you’re interested in integrating touchless tech into your foodservice practices, check out these top five strategies for introducing touchless technology at your business:
1. Make the Most of QR Codes
A quick response (QR) code is a code that can be easily scanned by a mobile device and nearly instantly bring up a wide variety of information on the device’s screen. The most popular use of QR codes within the foodservice industry is to direct customers to a digital menu. However, you can use QR codes to guide customers toward additional information, such as your establishment’s health and safety practices, real-time updates on their order’s status, contactless payment options and more.
2. Accept Various Styles of Contactless Payment
Although your establishment may have its own mobile app for collecting digital payment, consider accepting other touchless payment methods. As cash apps continue gaining popularity among the public, it may be more convenient for consumers if your business takes payments from these apps. Making touchless payment as easy and accessible as possible may attract more customers.
3. Ensure Your Touchless Technologies Work Together
While offering multiple touchless technological services is optimal, it is imperative to make sure that each piece of touchless tech interacts with your systems seamlessly to create a smooth contactless workflow. Make sure a new piece of touchless technology is fully integrated into your system and you’ve ironed out any kinks before attempting to include another new type of tech.
4. Be Transparent With Customers
Consumers are most likely to choose a place to eat that is up-front about its sanitization and cleaning processes. Make sure your business adheres to the U.S. Food and Drug Association (FDA) restaurant regulations and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations for restaurants to protect against the coronavirus and lets its customers know that it prioritizes their health by communicating its sanitary practices via signage, its website and social media.
5. Gather Feedback From Consumers
Be intentional about gathering customer feedback to find out whether your touchless technology is effectively enhancing their experiences or not. Collecting surveys interacting with your customers on social media can give you a better idea of which touchless foodservice technologies are helping your business and what you can improve upon. If your business has a mobile app, you can easily source surveys and ratings there.
Contact American Food & Vending About Your Touchless Technology Options
If you’re ready to start offering your customers innovative touchless technology, check out the many touchless technology solutions from American Food & Vending. As both a hospitality company and a culinary company, American Food & Vending is your perfect partner for providing consumers with a safe and healthy dining experience they can trust.
To learn more about how touchless technology could benefit your business, contact American Food & Vending today.