It has been an enormously difficult year for restaurants, with mass layoffs and closures as lockdowns and economic downturns placed serious burdens on Main Street businesses. Aid has come in, where possible, from the traditional channels — small business loans and grants — but for many, it is still a struggle to make ends meet. Even when businesses do come to the fore to offer restaurateurs pandemic-friendly solutions, such as pickup and delivery options and more up-to-date digital offerings, these solutions can be prohibitively expensive for small, independent establishments.
Now, one business is offering much-needed help to restaurants in an untraditional form: Tech company Pacific Software Publishing, Inc. (PSP) is extending free and discounted software solutions to restaurants in need with its Restaurants Are Back campaign.
“The restaurant industry has been one of the hardest hit by this pandemic. As a small business ourselves, we really sympathize with those that had to make really tough decisions as shutdowns and limitations rolled out across the country,” PSP’s Web Design and Development Manager Ryan Heinrichs told PYMNTS in an interview. “… as the pandemic continued to roll on, we started to discuss if there was more we could do. We specialize in custom software development, so our natural inclination was to use software to help out.”
The company began offering its ImaMenu contactless digital menu service for free. The PSP Pilot cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) portal is also available to restaurants for free through this campaign. A range of other tech solutions is being offered through a “pay what you can” model.
Additionally, as the campaign attracts notice, PSP is using this attention to boost restaurants by encouraging diners to post their meals to social media with the hashtag #RestaurantsAreBack. PSP will also share these posts to the Restaurants Are Back site. Heinrichs explained, “by using the hashtag, sharing their delicious-looking photos and tagging the restaurant, customers can provide a little extra boost of exposure to other dining enthusiasts.”
Contagion-Conscious Restaurant Technologies
“We have really noticed that restaurant tech is really becoming geared more toward a touchless experience. We are seeing this a lot in the rise of ‘contactless’ food delivery services,” said Heinrichs. “We are gearing many of our services to allow consumers to take action directly from their mobile devices to facilitate this touchless goal.”
As an example, Heinrichs cited the company’s Opinion Stand feedback collection and tracking system, which is being offered through the “pay what you can” model. “When we originally developed our customer feedback service … it was a kiosk-based service,” he recalled. It allowed customers dining in a restaurant to click an icon at a physical stand positioned within the restaurant to grade their overall experience and provide additional feedback.”
However, as the pandemic drove consumers indoors, and as those who visited restaurants on-site were resistant to engage with high-contact devices, the kiosks became impractical. PSP adapted the system for a contagion-conscious public: “We replaced it with a QR code and text message-based system where diners could scan or enter a code into their smartphone, and they would get a handheld version of the software, all from the comfort of their own device. The added benefit is that restaurants could include this code on takeout and delivery flyers so customers can provide the business with feedback on their experience away from the restaurant.”
“I believe that while new technologies are being developed in response to the pandemic, these innovations are here to stay,” Heinrichs said, adding that upgraded websites and more user-friendly mobile apps will be essential to restaurants going forward.
In fact, in this month’s Mobile Order-Ahead report, created in collaboration with software company Kount, PYMNTS researchers found that a whopping 38 percent of consumers would be more likely to make purchases if restaurants offered the ability to pay online, 37 percent if they offered the ability to order online, 27 percent if they offered the ability to order using a mobile app, and a small but far from negligible 10.5 percent of consumers who said they would be more likely to make purchases if they could pay with QR codes.
Additionally, in our most recent PYMNTS/Paytronix Delivering on Restaurant Rewards tracker, researchers found that the average restaurant customer spends far more per month on online ordering than dine-in or phone ordering — $201 per month versus $127 and $133, respectively — indicating that to survive in the post-COVID restaurant space, restaurants will need to have competitive digital offerings.