It’s January 2021 predictions time, Happy New Year! We are looking forward to a year in which the world will emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and in which technological innovation will play an integral role in bringing businesses, from hotels, restaurants and sport stadiums to health centres and high schools.
The events of the past twelve month had encouraged brands to innovate, to think around their challenges and deploy fresh technology platforms to help bring them through the crisis. Many of these solutions will remain, long after virus has passed into memory – in particular, those that we touch on below: our 2021 predictions.
The drive thru may not be a new phenomenon, but COVID-19 has given the order, drive and dine system a fresh lease of life; it’s made it a priority for many businesses for the first time.
While restaurants, pubs and fast casual restaurants can’t welcome guests in, they can capture a market of key workers and consumers desperate for a dining experience without the risk infection that comes from leaving their car. In August 2020, data showed that Brits were buying more takeaways than before the initial lockdown; figures showed a 2% rise in orders compared to March of the same year.
In 2021 we expect brands to capitalise on this trend by investing in drive thru technologies – either for the first time, or to upgrade their existing solutions. Dynamic display boards, light boxes and customer tracking systems will help to change the reputation of the drive-thru. They will take it from a staple of the fast-food market, to one used and loved by coffee shop and fast casual brands.
Automation can refer to any number of business processes. From simple tasks like reservation booking to stock management and event food prep can be automated to a lesser or greater extent. Last year, the benefits of automation, especially in a kitchen setting were made clear, especially as businesses tried to reduce staff (to comply with health and safety) without damaging output.
As part of our 2021 predictions we see automation being used by businesses looking to increase order numbers without damaging product consistency. It will provide the operational transparency managers need to maintain product consistency despite changes to routine. And, because it will reduce the time staff spend on manual tasks such as labelling, or transferring order tickets, it will allow all team members to be more productive with their time.
Online ordering, whereby customers pre-order food and drink via a mobile device – or order while dining in a restaurant without the need for waiter interaction – has boomed in the last year. The next 12 months will cement its position as the breakout pandemic and post-pandemic technology for the hospitality and entertainment industries.
Through this period, consumers have grown accustomed to using a digital interface to engage with and order from their favourite brands. It has proved fast, efficient and safe and, while the experience it has offered customers is different, it has been positive. On the other side, businesses have benefited from the productivity it has afforded teams no longer tied to phones to take orders, or having to move back and forth to take orders and payment.
Once the pandemic has come to an end and venues are fully open for guests to return, online ordering will continue to be used and embraced by consumers and brands. Indeed, we see the technology continuing to evolve and mature with sophisticated loyalty, marketing, CRM, guest tracking and reservation solutions being built into or integrated with existing solutions.