The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our lives in ways we had never imagined. Our everyday interaction with the outside world, with public spaces, the retail environment, and even with one another, has come under intense scrutiny. All of this is rapidly reorienting our understanding of personal hygiene and public health.
We anticipate that the food service industry, specifically the dining out segment, will experience significant and permanent changes in the way it operates. Based on some recent consumer surveys, diners are ranking safety assurance and hygiene as their top factors when they choose a restaurant for dine in.
The situation demands all of us to keep safety and hygiene standards at the highest priority. Restaurants have forever been the world’s community centres, and it is very important that the staff, and the premises follow best in class practices to keep their staff and their customers safe.
All restaurants will have to rethink operations to suit these post-COVID sensibilities of their customers. For the restaurant industry, the pace of recovery will be governed by how quickly it can restore consumer confidence and trust.
While dining out at our favourite restaurants with our near and dear ones seems like a distant dream, at Zomato, we are proactively working on initiatives that will help make the restaurant industry bounce back faster when the current restrictions are lifted, by adopting technology based safety solutions.
Introducing Contactless Dining
Contactless Dining minimises customer contact with anything that someone else might have touched – by eliminating the use of high-touch elements at restaurants. Imagine a full-stack tech enabled dining experience, but with the least risk to health and safety.
Contactless Dining will have the following components
1. Contactless menu – scan a QR code on the table to explore the restaurant menu with dish and pairing recommendations
2. Contactless ordering – order through the app (you don’t need to talk to the waiting staff to place an order, or modify an order)
3. Contactless payment – once done, just pay the bill via the app & leave the restaurant premises
This eliminates the need for menu cards and bill books, two articles that are often touched by guests, and are typically unsanitized and could potentially be a source of concern. So far, the waiting staff will still need to bring you your food from the kitchen, but as long as the waiting staff is wearing a mask, and following the highest hand hygiene standards, we should all be okay.
We are building additional features on the app — such as the ability to order multiple courses, and the option to pay for yourself or the entire table — to ensure a hassle-free dining experience.
Contactless dining also ensures that consumers don’t have to wait to place their order or pay the bill. Thus, making the entire experience far more seamless and convenient for the users.
Contactless dining is a step forward in the right direction for the restaurant industry; this will provide for a better and hassle free dining experience for customers, and also improve the economics of the restaurant industry – by helping bring down manpower costs, as well as reducing the table turnover time.
Restaurant Hygiene & Safety Practices
As hygiene takes precedence, we recommend that restaurants judiciously follow the protocols laid out by the health authorities across the world (including WHO). To encourage this, we are adding safety features on the app wherein restaurants will be able to self report safety and hygiene measures that they undertake, such as
● Sanitized premise: Ensure frequent cleaning/disinfection of high touch points such as tables/door handles etc.
● Hand sanitization: Display alcohol-based hand sanitizers prominently around the venue or/and provide hand washing station to the users
● Food hygiene: Ensure that all raw meats, seafood, vegetables have been cleaned thoroughly before preparation.
● Table layout: Arranging tables at least one meter apart from each other
● Staff temperature check: Ensure daily temperature checks for the restaurant staff
● Staff hygiene and awareness: Staff is educated about precautions that are necessary to maintain hygiene in the restaurant. Staff wash their hands thoroughly multiple times a day.
Prompts on the Zomato app will reveal the restaurant’s hygiene records to assist in informed decision making, and also allow consumers to report any deviations from what has been self-reported by the restaurant.
We believe a proactive approach towards safety and hygiene will go a long way in building confidence back in dining out.
Our teams will start reaching out to restaurants in the coming weeks to educate them about self regulation and Contactless Dining, so that when the lockdown ends, our restaurant partners can inspire confidence in the public and usher a safer, more seamless era of dining experiences.