Contactless Dining Already Has a Strong Foothold, and it’s Here to Stay

The seismic shift in consumer behavior brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic has changed Americans’ attitudes toward work, school and shopping; but their appetite for dining out remains.

In a survey conducted by PYMNTS, consumers listed restaurants as the second-most commonly cited reason they wanted to leave their homes. Restaurants were also ranked third in what those surveyed deemed the “most important” reason, just behind seeing family and friends and returning to work.

While consumers want to return to normal activities, they need to feel safe in doing so. Last week, Paytronix launched Contactless Dining, a new platform for engaging guests on-premise while maintaining a safe social distance.

The trend toward contactless dining options, while in its infancy, already has a strong foothold in the market:

McDonald’s, a worldwide QSR giant and longtime industry leader, adopted an Order & Pay app to augment its existing drive-thru operations, seeing a consumer demand for contactless, order-ahead technology even before the pandemic. Not only do guests get to stay in their car, they’re able to avoid handing over their cash or credit card, highlighting a trend toward contactless payment and raising questions about the best way to integrate touch-free loyalty.

And it’s not just the giant brands getting on board: a local favorite in Saugus, Massachusetts with a cult-like following, Kowloon adopted Paytronix Order & Delivery to power an outdoor drive-in theater and carhop that has proved to be a huge hit with guests.

“Online ordering was always an important part of our business, but now it’s even more important, and I’m looking at it and wondering how we went without it before,” said Bob Wong, who owns and runs the business with his siblings.

Contactless innovation is also useful as dining moves outdoors, where servers are further from POS system terminals. By enabling guests to order from their phone, the service is both seamless and safe. Cities and towns across America have been getting creative, shutting down streets to traffic to create a pedestrian walkway and additional space for alfresco dining. The concept has proven to be a success in cities like Waltham, Massachusetts.

More lighthearted and entertaining tactics have been employed elsewhere, like a German café that taped pool noodles to lightweight fedoras to prevent guests from gathering too closely. These trends and silly, fun, and on the wilder side, but their novelty will wear off in time; it’s the technology that will find a lasting home in our dining culture.

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