While everybody is maintaining social distancing and avoiding ordering food from outside during lockdown, most people are wondering whether it would be safe to dine out or order in once the restrictions are lifted. Addressing such concerns, some restaurant chains and food delivery applications have started ‘contactless dining’.
What is it?
In the post-Covid-19 world, contactless dining is said to eliminate the need for consumers to touch the menu or bills during dine-in, and offers to place tables at least one meter apart to maintain social distancing. In a series of tweets, Zomato highlighted the need for such an initiative.
“Based on some recent consumer studies, diners are ranking safety assurance and hygiene as their top factors when they choose a restaurant for dine in,” the tweet read.
As per Dineout, contactless dining would entail that restaurants inform customers about measures, optimise making reservations online, adopt pre-ordering to optimise wait time, accept payments through digital wallet and adopt mandatory temperature checks for staffers and diners while allowing diners to self-check-in at restaurants.
The idea being to reduce the points of contact.
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.
— Zomato (@ZomatoIN) April 18, 2020
How does contactless dining take place?
“Post the lockdown, we’ll be introducing a new feature called Contactless Dining with the aim of making the dining experience safer and more efficient by eliminating the use of high touch elements at restaurants,” Zomato stated in a tweet.
What does it mean? Consumers do not need to touch the menu or bill to pay online. “This eliminates the need for menu cards and bill books, and reduces avoidable interactions with the restaurant staff. With features such as the ability to pay for yourself or for the entire table and order a second round right on the app, we want to ensure that your in-restaurant experience remains the same,” read the company’s email to customers.
Dineout also went on to mention that PPE kits (Personal protective equipment) will be given to all of their partners “to ensure they maintain maximum level of hygiene”.
How is it “contactless”?
Earlier this week, our CEO & cofounder @ankitatdineout introduced #ContactlessDining for our restaurant partners. With our existing technology & new guidelines, we are ensuring it is #SafeToEatOut when lockdown ends. Watch the interview on @NewsX here: https://t.co/akL94FDV7Q pic.twitter.com/Ak9PcVyuHi
— Dineout Later. Stay Home Now. (@dineout_india) April 18, 2020
Menu: One can scan a QR code on the table to explore the restaurant menu with dish and pairing recommendations.
Ordering: Order through the app (you don’t need to talk to the waiting staff to place an order, or modify an order).
Payment: Once done, just pay the bill via the app and leave the restaurant premises.
Reservations and feedback are also done online to ensure minimum contact.
How does the food come to you?
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, said Zomato in its blog.
As per the company, such an initiative will also help 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.
Does contactless dining actually work?
According to experts from the industry, “this is an hypothetical thinking rather than a feasible idea”. “With 20 years of experience, I know for a fact that some form of contact is indispensable. Someone will be cooking the food and bringing it to the diners. A pan-India robotic technology has not yet started, so unless it is packaged food being served, either we are fooling the gentry or giving half-truths,” remarked corporate chef Ashish Singh, Cafe Delhi Heights/Dhansoo/Nueva.
However, he added, “Given the circumstances where customers will think twice before stepping out in a post-Covid world, this may nevertheless be a start to encourage customers. However, how much it is scaled up at a pan-India level will determine the effectiveness.”