Retail and restaurant environments have always had to change and evolve in response to shifting trends and consumer behaviors. But the coronavirus pandemic has impacted these industries (and many others) in ways unprecedented in modern times. According to a recent study by Cambridge Retail Advisors, 83% of C-level executives feel that retail and dining will be changed forever by the pandemic. As we move toward reopening the economy, what can business owners expect as the “new normal”? What changes wrought by COVID-19 are likely to remain part of the retail and restaurant landscapes?
Mobility is a Must-Have
There has been an accelerated shift toward online ordering and curbside pickup.. While restaurant interiors were shuttered, and social distancing was necessary for the safety of customers and staff, these options were the main way businesses could stay open at all. As the Cambridge Retail Advisors study notes restaurants have been implementing “ghost kitchens” — space devoted to fulfilling online orders only.
In this environment, mobile options such as online ordering and mobile point of sale (POS) are even more important for businesses to have now. While online ordering and curbside pickup were made necessary for safety reasons, they are likely to remain in place post-pandemic, as customers appreciate the convenience. People were dependent on their smartphones even before the coronavirus crisis: in 2017, eMarketer found that U.S. consumers were spending an average of more than three hours a day within mobile apps (plus almost another hour on the mobile web). The pandemic has almost certainly amplified that trend, moving mobile tech from the “helpful” category to “essential.”
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New Expectations from Customers
As we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis and more activities resume, people will be getting back to their busy, on-the-go lifestyles; and once again, convenience will be a top priority. On-premises dining was already giving way to takeout and delivery before the pandemic: in 2019, industry analysts were predicting that more than half of restaurant spending would take place off-premises in 2020. The lockdowns and forced closures of on-premises dining meant even more people gave takeout and curbside pickup a try — and they’re liking the speed and convenience enough to continue post-pandemic. But they will also still be mindful of safety concerns; and while many will be eager to resume social interaction, just as many others won’t be ready for quite some time yet and will stick to the contactless options.
Smart Technology Choices Will Be Crucial
The pandemic has made many retailers and restaurant owners re-evaluate their technology solutions. The businesses that are managing to survive the crisis are the ones that were able to pivot quickly and adapt their processes to new circumstances, because they had flexible, scalable tech in place (or took this opportunity to upgrade).
Essential tech features include:
- Online ordering for seamless experiences.
- The availability of tablet POS for tableside orders and payments, especially as outdoor or patio dining is a safer on-premises option. One 2019 survey found that 26% of consumers said the availability of tableside electronic ordering and payment options would influence their choice of restaurant, as they appreciated the increased order speed and accuracy and added security of retaining control of their credit card, as well as the convenience and now the safety of reduced contact.
- Cloud-based management that allows for easy, centralized changes to menus, pricing, and inventory as conditions require (for example, if you need to adjust your menu offerings for takeout).
Choosing the right tech also means choosing the right provider — one with the industry knowledge and years of experience that enable them to guide you to the solutions that will work best for you.
NCC is committed to ensuring that businesses have the tools they need to survive the coronavirus crisis and continue to thrive under more normal circumstances. For more information on post-pandemic expectations, download our free eBook The Future of the Retail and Restaurant Industries. And to find out more about how NCC technology can improve your operations, contact us today.