South African restaurants had to be resilient in a country that was dealt a harsh blow by a pandemic that was ravaging large parts of the globe.

If they didn’t already have them, restaurants that wanted to survive had to develop takeout, delivery or drive-through facilities quickly. Restaurants opened their doors again in Level 2 of the national lockdown, but government regulations for the safety of patrons and restaurant employees have changed the way they operate.

With no seeming end to the virus, can we look to technology to innovate the industry and help our restaurants to continue doing business? American online publication Restaurant Business discussed technological restaurant innovations during pandemic conditions in a recent article on its site.

Can tech innovations help the troubled restaurant industry?

Many restaurant patrons said they would prefer not to risk human contact during the pandemic. In a survey by consulting firm AlixPartners, 60% of respondents said they would avoid visiting a restaurant for fear of contracting the coronavirus. A few restaurants have come up with innovative ways to continue providing a service while ensuring the health of their customers and staff.

  • Brooklyn Dumpling Shop developed the concept of leaving orders in cubbies for customers to pick up. The idea is appealing to customers who don’t want to risk face-to-face interaction when they’re getting their food order. It works like a vending machine, except that patrons order from their phones or use touchless in-store kiosks. They can then pick up their order from a temperature-controlled cubby, opening it with a code that is sent to their phone. During the pandemic, the Brooklyn Dumpling Shop increased safety measures. Cubbies are now cleaned with UV light to sanitise the insides after the order is collected. This results in reduced human contact and less chance of human error.
  • GrubGuard is a product that aims to address similar issues. It responded to consumers who expressed a desire for their food deliveries to be held in a secure and insulated compartment. GrubGuard consists of specialised packaging and software that will alert restaurants and consumers if an order is interfered with in any way while it’s being delivered.
  • Restaurant food safety and health management company Zero Hour Health has come up with a neat solution for employee illness. The company started an app-based wellness check that employees can take before coming to work. It’s an automated safety measure to prevent sick employees from coming to work and to help them. It also helps managers because it means that they don’t have to make tough decisions about whether staff are well enough to work.
  • Silver Diner franchise installed a system of UV light sanitisation and air filtration products in every restaurant at a cost of $500 000 to safeguard the health of employees and customers. Since the installation, it has seen a rise in traffic between 5%-10%. It said the investment was also to protect against colds and flus, and to be prepared in future in case another similar pandemic occurs.

The effects of the pandemic are likely to be long-lasting, particularly for the restaurant industry. But we’re confident that technology will continue to innovate the industry and help our restaurants survive.

If you would like more restaurant industry insights, check out our e-book, Secret Ingredients to a Successful Restaurant.

Author : Rudi Badenhorst