Technology-enabled restaurants in India will be the new normal


Dheeraj Talreja, President – India, AAK Group

The food and beverage industry has undergone a slew of transformations ever since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic last year. India’s F&B industry, like most other countries, has also had to rethink its business strategies and come up with innovative ways to serve customers and keep their business running. Although trends like takeaway and drive-through continued to grow due to the restrictions on restaurant dining, hoteliers have had to adopt more technology-based solutions. From digital menus that are available with a barcode scan to contactless payment options, restaurants across the country have hurtled towards tech-based solutions to stay afloat in what was already a cut-throat market. Below are a few of the major trends that will dominate the food and dining industry this year. 

?Cloud Kitchens: Essentially, these are rented commercial spaces that produce food only for delivery purposes. The delivery-only model works wonders due to social distancing rules that are here to stay in the foreseeable future. Also known as virtual restaurants, cloud kitchens minimise operational costs that come with the hiring of waiters, and other restaurant staff and maintenance personnel.

?Contactless Delivery Services: The idea behind contactless delivery service is to reduce the volume of physical contact between delivery agents and customers. Restaurants and food delivery apps are continuously expanding these services to cater to the rising demand of hygienic and contact-free delivery options from customers.

?Tech-enabled in-restaurant dining experiences: Technology that was earlier thought of as a luxury is now becoming a necessity. The emergence of QR codes across restaurants for more contact-less dining experiences is one such example. QR codes will play an instrumental role in implementing a contactless menu and digital payments at the restaurant. In addition to this, pre-ordering services help diners to cut wait times at restaurants and ensure that their food is ready by the time they reach. Last but not the least, reservations and waitlist management softwares will ensure that restaurants aren’t overcrowding and can adhere to social distancing norms.  

?Self-ordering Kiosks: Large Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) players like McDonalds and KFC have already employed this form of service. Kiosks are small standing digital systems that allow customers to place orders for themselves. They speed up service with a significant reduction in time taken for placing orders. Kiosks are versatile systems that enable customers to curate their orders and pay for them via their preferred mode of payment with minimal physical contact.

?Healthier Food Choices: Consumers are now more careful than ever before while making food choices. There is a paradigm shift in food consumption from comfort food to healthy foods such as more vegetarian meal options. The concept of farm to fork is growing among millennials who are consciously avoiding junk food intake. The food service industry will thus have to continuously innovate their offerings based on changing consumer preferences that are influenced by health trends and global events such as this pandemic.

With customer preferences and habits undergoing massive changes and restaurants following suit to cater to these newly arising trends, the pandemic can be seen as a catalyst for change in the F&B industry. A recent survey conducted by RTi Research found that, of the 31% of consumers who had food delivered to their homes for the first time, 66% said they would keep doing so after the global pandemic. This means that there could be a permanent behavioural change with respect to people dining and socializing. This means that restaurants will need to prepare for a different world even after social distancing restrictions are eased. And the adoption of tech-based solutions is sure to make this transition easier for hoteliers and restaurants.