8 café & restaurant technology trends to watch in 2021
It’s no secret that 2020 disrupted the hospitality industry and accelerated new ways of doing business. The COVID-19 pandemic introduced many cafés and restaurants to technologies like contactless payments and courier delivery services, that they may have been slow to adopt otherwise.
Now, many cafés and restaurants have reinvented themselves around new technologies that enhance safety, improve operational efficiencies, open up new revenue streams, reduce their ecological footprint, and more.
Keep reading to learn about the top café and restaurant technology trends leading the industry in 2021.
1. Contactless ordering and payments
To stay open during the COVID-19 pandemic, cafés and restaurants needed to prioritise social distancing between staff and customers. This has led to a rapid rise in the adoption of contactless ordering systems that allow customers to order and pay for their meal without leaving their table or directly interacting with a staff member.
Contactless ordering systems sync with your point of sale and can automatically send tickets to kitchen display systems. This fundamentally alters the ordering process within your café or restaurant, with front of house staff no longer required to attend tables and write down orders.
Find out more about making the switch to contactless payments here.
2. Paperless kitchen display systems
As public awareness around foodservice sustainability increases, cafés and restaurants have begun to reduce their environmental footprint by minimising waste in the kitchen. While most kitchen waste occurs during the food preparation stage, a significant amount of paper waste is created using traditional printed tickets to track orders.
Kitchen display systems have been widespread in fast food establishments for decades since they made sense for rapid service of low-complexity food. Nowadays, independent cafés and restaurants are adopting kitchen display systems at an increasing rate after recognising the various benefits they bring.
Kitchen display systems not only help to eliminate paper waste - but they also keep your kitchen better organised. A kitchen display system will also help you save money otherwise spent restocking thermal paper rolls for ticket printing machines.
Find out more about using kitchen display systems here.
3. Cloud point of sale systems
Cloud-computing systems have led to massive efficiency gains for a wide range of industries, and your café or restaurant can benefit from them too. The previously mentioned contactless ordering and kitchen display systems become even more efficient when they form part of a network of systems that also cover workflows, inventory management, timesheets, accounting, and more.
Leveraging cloud POS systems will allow you to foster better collaboration between BOH and FOH staff, keep payments secure, streamline the ordering of ingredients, and enjoy a wide range of other benefits. While training your team with these systems will inevitably cause some disruption, it’s worth doing in the long run if you want to stay as competitive as possible.
Find out more about upgrading to a cloud POS system here.
4. Digital customer loyalty programs
Rewarding repeat customers is a proven tactic that you’re likely already using with your business, but is it operating as smoothly as it could? Rather than giving customers an easily misplaced and wasteful punch card or token, foodservice operators are switching to digital systems where customers can sign up, log in, and track their rewards using a QR code or mobile app. Please add the other benefit of being able to collect customer data to help with marketing offers etc.
5. Online ordering and delivery
Food delivery apps like UberEats undoubtedly helped many foodservice operators stay active during the harsh lockdowns of 2020. With sit-down dining prohibited to stop the spread of COVID, the only way for many chefs to have their food enjoyed was to package it in a takeaway box and trust it with a courier.
The necessity of facilitating online ordering and delivery has introduced an entirely new revenue stream for cafés and restaurants that previously never thought to offer this service. The nature of the gig economy has meant that there’s almost always delivery partners available nearby, so there’s no need to hire dedicated delivery staff, and this significantly reduces the cost of offering this service to your customers.
6. Voice recognition technology
As voice recognition technology gets better at interpreting the intricacies of human speech, voice-activated ordering is being used to help provide a better ordering experience to customers. This technology can also be used in the kitchen, allowing chefs to control their kitchen display system, re-order stock, take notes, and do a variety of other tasks with greater efficiency. Voice recognition technology also makes ordering more accessible to people with disabilities.
7. Food traceability software
COVID-19 also highlighted the importance of avoiding the contamination of ingredients through the adoption of food traceability software. Foodservice operators, their staff, and their customers all enjoy greater peace of mind when they have transparency regarding the origin of produce.
Cafés and restaurants need to do their best to ensure what they serve meets health standards and that employees are doing their due diligence at every stage of the food preparation process. Failing to demonstrate a commitment to traceability and accountability is something that can harm your reputation and take customers from your business - whether somebody gets sick or not.
Find out more about some of the top food traceability software solutions here.
8. Bipolar ionisation and UVGI technology
To help stop the spread of viruses and keep their kitchens open, foodservice operators have also started to invest in the latest air-cleaning technologies to use with their HVAC systems. The two main air-cleaning technologies being used today are ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) and bipolar ionisation (BPI).
UVGI uses ultraviolet light at a specific wavelength to degrade organic matter and neutralise bacteria. Bipolar ionisation is a newer technology that uses electricity to generate ions that work to either cluster around and destroy contaminants or bond with them to create a large mass that air filtration systems can target.
You can learn more about bipolar ionisation here.
Which trending technologies will you leverage?
Although many of the technologies listed here were originally adopted to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, they offer various other benefits that make them worth exploring outside of lockdown. Think about the technologies listed above and how adopting them can improve your service, draw in more customers, and raise your profits.
Remember; don’t forget to chat with your staff to get their insight on which new technologies your café or restaurant should adopt. For example, if you’re thinking about investing in a kitchen display system, you need to consult your kitchen staff first since they’re the ones who will be using it.