Coronavirus has been impacting so many people and businesses all around the world. Businesses have been shut down, hotels are closed, restaurants are closed and many of them are unfortunately already out of business. Millions of people are without a job. One of the hardest hit industries in the world is the tourism industry. Restaurant industry is one of the core components of any tourism activity in the world. According to National Restaurant Association, 8 million restaurant employees have already been laid off or furloughed. When you think about this, 8 million homes that do not have any food or roof over them. The restaurant industry will lose 80 billion dollars in sales by the end of April. The situation is not an easy one or anything that any of us have seen in our live times. This will not continue like this for ever. In the past we had pandemics or other crises and tourism industry has overcome them. Tourism industry is resilient. Crises bring innovation.
Coronavirus has changed how consumers behave. In the post Coronavirus world, many things will be different. Consumers will be more self conscious. Sit-down restaurants typically pass out menus once the guests are seated. In the post-corona world, as Professor Cihan Cobanoglu calls it "Restaurant 3.C" in which C stands for Corona, restaurants will do well by eliminating paper menus which may transmit viruses. The use of QR in businesses is not a new idea. However, restaurants in the US do not use it in lieu of a paper menu. This article suggets that QR codes can be used as contactless menu in the restaurants and as payment method.
The consumers are not going to be the same consumers for some time. Customers will be very cautious where they dine. Of course, they want the restaurants that they will visit to be sanitary. The restaurants need to highlight these sanitation practices at these difficult times. They need to make sure that customers know that employees who are working in the restaurant are free of Coronavirus. So, daily temperature checks or even Coronavirus tests will definitely help. Emirates Airlines started to test the passengers for Coronavirus before they board the planes. When the restaurants open up and customers go to restaurants to dine, they will be seated and the host will give them menu…or not—The menus pass hands and the perception is there that if someone touched that menu before you and that person had Coronavirus, now you may have it too. So, contactless service will be a key point for restaurants to adopt…quickly.
There is a practice in Chinese restaurants in China even before the Coronavirus which I believe can be very handy for restaurants in the rest of the world. Ordering and paying with QR codes. This is how it works. The guest goes to the restaurant. The host seats the guests in a table, of course, while observing social distancing rules. But the host does not give the
guests a menu. Instead the guests will scan a QR code in their table with their smart phones. This will bring up mobile phone friendly digital menu to the guests’ phones. They will be able to order from their phones directly. The QR code will know which table the guest sits and the server will bring the food directly to the table. Actually, this technology can allow the restaurants to take this service quality to the next level. How? By allowing the guests to sort the menu items based on the most ordered items—who does not want to know what are the favorites? The QR system may even allow the guest to rate the items that they had. These rating systems will allow the guests again to sort the menu items based on their rates by other guests. You have a medical condition or religious preferences? No worries, the QR based menu will make all items gray out if they do not fit to your medical presences. If you are diabetic, your menu will gray out the items that have sugar on it. If you are a Jewish or Muslim guest, all items that have pork or pork products will gray out.
Time to pay now! No need to give your credit card to the guest—by scanning another code, this time you can pay directly to the restaurant contactless. The QR technology is not a new technology. However, it is not widely used in restaurants outside of China. This is definitely the time to give this technology a try. It is also not very expensive to implement. I hear you are saying that what if a guest does not have a smart phone. We had a panel at the M3 Center at the University of South Florida yesterday and John Horne from Anna Maria Oyster Bar said that they are installing big digital screens in his restaurants so that guest can see the menu items without touching a menu. That’s a possibility. Or asking the guests to look at a big screen at the entrance and decide on what they want before they sit. Innovation will be here and we need to think about different and more efficient ways of serving our guests. Hospitality industry will prevail. It is resilient. Please stay strong and keep your hopes high. We will overcome this.