Written by Jack Serfass, CEO, Co-founder
As restaurants begin to reopen, a great deal of focus and anticipation is on how we give guests the confidence to come back. Before the pandemic, little attention was paid to restaurant menus that were touched over and over again. Now, many companies are rapidly announcing offerings for this new world of menus. Here, we cover some things to think about when considering the right “touchless” menu solution for your restaurant.
Use QR Codes for Restaurant Menus
There’s a good amount of confusion in the industry about QR Codes right now. QR Codes basically are just a way to encode data, and in this case it is usually a link. The question isn’t about having a QR Code menu. The important question is what does the QR Code do? Does it take you to a pdf file? Does it launch a website? Does it ask you to download an app? Does it launch an interactive menu without requiring an app? We believe the right design point is the last question. Provide guests a mobile responsive interactive menu on their personal devices without the requirement to download an app.
Avoid “App Fatigue”
Many people had “App Fatigue” before this pandemic. There are about 1,000,000 restaurants in the US alone. It’s not reasonable that anyone is going to want to download 1,000,000 apps on his or her personal device. Some of the very large restaurant brands will have good market penetration with their apps, but most restaurants will not. If only 10-20% of your guests have your app, how will you serve the other 80-90%? Guests will not be happy if they feel you’re forcing them to put your app on their phone.
Sanitized Tablets, Throw-Away Menus or Smartphones?
Yes! We believe that most restaurants will have all three. Many guests will use their own devices, but guests will need to be accommodated with paper if they don’t want to use technology. Some use cases (such as beverage books and wine lists) benefit from the larger form factor of a tablet. The better your digital solution is, the less paper you will be paying for, shipping and throwing away which is great for our planet.
Be Multi-lingual–It’s Easy
Tools like Google Translate have come so far over the last few years. If your solution is well-written (i.e., no text embedded in images), it should be easy to show your menu to your guests in their native languages.
Ensure Support for People with Disabilities
Making sure your restaurant and menu are accessible to everyone is obviously the right thing to do to. But there are also many lawsuits being filed in the US and internationally for not being compliant. In addition to ADA compliance, depending on where you operate your solution, you may need to take into account WCAG 2.1, Section 508, AODA, ACA, EAA/EN301548, and ISS568.
Choose Reputable Tasting Notes
For restaurants with a focus on beverage programs, tasting notes are essential. Both the quantity and quality of tasting notes are important, and there are many possible sources of varying comprehensiveness. Therefore, ask any vendor about their sources. Do they employ a dedicated team well-trained on curating tasting notes? Or are they downloading them from a random website? Beware of systems that use data created by a public website that permits anyone to add tasting notes. The quality and quantity of tasting notes can be a major factor in the difference between success and failure of your touchless menu strategy. Look for tasting notes that go beyond wine and cover tequilas, cognacs, whiskeys, cigars, bottled water and so on. Ideally, you want a guest to be able to simply check a box and have the tasting notes, an image and any accolades automatically appear.
Deploy Day-part Timers
Most restaurants offer different menus at different times of the day/week. Happy Hours, Sunday Brunches, Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Limited Time Offers (LTOs), and so on. Look for a system that can automatically change menus and/or menu sections on different days and times.
86 without Code Change and Disruption
If you run out of something, you do not want to have to recode a website. You also don’t want to run off the floor of the dining room to the back office. Look for a system that lets you 86 easily from your phone.
Easy Website Integration
Now that you have an interactive, real-time menu, wouldn’t it be great to have it on your website? Look for a system that lets you do this quickly and easily. No more out-of-date pdfs that frustrate guests when they come expecting something that you no longer serve. Make sure that if you 86 something it disappears from the website in real time.
Be Ready for Hackers
Hackers from around the globe are getting more aggressive, with businesses and brands popular targets. Business people need to be more competent with cloud security than ever before. Not to get too tech-y, but make sure your cloud is well-architected, has a great firewall and is secured against layer 3 and 4 DDoS attacks, bots and so on–the normal things in a good hardened cloud.
Tap Analytics for Menu Engineering
Look for a product that tracks activity, geography, smartphone operating system types, and user sharing stats. This data can be used to optimize behaviors and revenue. Ideally, the product should let you test different menus (A/B test) to see which one produces the desired revenue and experience outcomes.
Ride Virality and the Long Tail
What a new opportunity! Think of all the guests who will now leave your restaurant with your menu on their phones! Make sure your system lets them easily share your menu with friends. Also, if they dined in, consider pushing a takeout menu to their phone for when they get home. Hopefully the term “going viral” gets back to meaning what it did before the pandemic.
Remember: Brand, Brand, Brand
Finally, pay extra attention to the options that you have for menu design and presentation. Even though your menu will be on smartphones, it must look and act like a menu. Therefore, avoid systems that have limited design options such as pick the blue, yellow or red design. Also systems that look too tech-y, like an app or website. Even with all the changes, guests still want to engage with your brand as part of their dining experience.
Hopefully, all of this helps you make an informed decision about this important next step for your restaurant. There will be countless “touchless” products coming to market very rapidly. We’re rooting that restaurants come back and are even more of a success than before.
View also on LinkedIn.com