Social dining. Picture: Pexels: Helena Lopes
Social dining. Picture: Pexels: Helena Lopes

Innovations and technology used by restaurant industry is exciting and should help secure its future, even with lockdowns

By Lutho Pasiya Time of article published Sep 5, 2021

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There is no denying that Covid-19 has had a terribly disruptive impact on the restaurant industry. Dining rooms looked much different in 2019 than in 2020, and 2021 is proving that more change is on the horizon.

The restaurant industry picked up its pace with sturdiness and adapted to technology in 2020. Now, 2021 is the year everyone is looking forward to with new hopes and dreams.

Last year, the list of things in our lives that changed seemed never-ending. On that list was a shift from dining out to ordering for pick-up or delivery. This fuelled a quick surge in the need for third-party food delivery apps and delivery drivers.

More South Africans were staying home using these platforms for meals throughout 2020 – but still, the question is: Will this continue once Covid-19 is long behind us? And according to experts, the answer is yes.

Here are other innovations and trends that bode well for the the future of the restaurant industry.

Hygiene and disinfection practices

Since the beginning of the pandemic, many of us have been scared about going out for a bite or even ordering food to our homes. Fact is, the restaurant industry has been one of the worst-hit industries due to this pandemic, and hence, it becomes more important for restaurants to reassure their customers of the safety and hygiene measures at their establishment. One way to ensure they have safe and hygienic food is to ramp up their hygiene protocol.

Well, even before the pandemic, in the food and beverage industry, it is essential to maintain hygiene standards in compliance with food safety regulations. Failure to put in place and adhere to appropriate hygiene procedures, particularly in food preparation areas, can result in cross-contamination which can cause serious illnesses and compromise our safety.

So, with proper hygiene in place, this means we are safe from getting sick.

With limits on table service dining as a result of Covid-19, restaurants of all sizes face pressure to strengthen off-premise sales, which has accelerated their focus on takeaway, delivery, and order-ahead options. Picture: Supplied

Virtual restaurants and dark kitchens

With limits on table service dining as a result of Covid-19, restaurants of all sizes face pressure to strengthen off-premises sales, which has accelerated their focus on takeaway, delivery, and order-ahead options.

Dark kitchens comprise the latest step in the increasingly tech-focused evolution of the food delivery sector. Coupled with other growing concepts such as “virtual menus” – menus for brands that exist purely online – dark kitchens, also referred to as “cloud” or “ghost” kitchens, are perhaps the most important development this industry has seen since the emergence of delivery aggregators.

Speaking to the co-founder of Lucky Peach House of Ramen, Josh Simon, he said the dark kitchen concept was very much a trend that has been embraced by small business owners and entrepreneurs, and by embracing this trend, we are able to support SMEs which are fast becoming the backbone of our economy, and we are also exposing ourselves to new types of food and tastes.

Contactless dining

This is a restaurant dine-in experience that allows us to view the menu, place orders, and make payments without touching public surfaces or by avoiding unnecessary interaction with the restaurant staff. This minimizes the chances of contact with anything that somebody else might have touched. What excites me about contactless dining is that I do not have to wait for placing my order, getting my bill, and making payment.

Beyond these prime benefits of contactless dining, it also helps in maintaining order accuracy, avoids any chances of miscommunication between the staff and myself. Since I am equipped with the ability to choose, review, and then place an order, accuracy in order placement can be assured. This allows me to focus on the food, ambiance, and service of the restaurant.

Online food ordering

Online ordering has been around in the restaurant industry for quite some time – in fact, the first online food order was placed in 1994. However, in recent years and especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, online ordering has gone from a desirable convenience to an absolute must for restaurant survival.

If you have ever used an online food ordering application, one of the most obvious benefits is the seamless process that the applications can offer. Online food ordering allows us to place an order at virtually any time, from anywhere, saving us time and resources typically spent on travelling to pick up a meal.

2021 has brought with it the realisation that things are not going to snap back to normal. Picture: Pexels (Helena Lopes)

Social dining

Restaurants have long been special places for people to gather with friends and family and connect over delicious food and drinks. Now that most places have reopened, it has been amazing to watch guests enthusiastically return to restaurants, ready to make up for all the lost time.

Employees have been welcoming guests back into their restaurants like family and connecting once again in person and the entire hospitality ecosystem is ready to once again thrive. There seems to be a new appreciation for something we had perhaps taken for granted, and I am reawakened by it greatly.

This article was first published in the Sunday Insider, September 5, 2021

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