Of all the reinventions the restaurant is undertaking right now, menus are one of the more fascinating. Between calls to action about paring down the size of their menus, offering disposable ones, or, preferably, going full-on digital and contactless, restaurants have a lot of choices and decisions to make when it comes to how they will present their menus in the future. It’s not a question of wanting to or not. The pandemic, social distancing guidelines, and new regulations for restaurants have, as I wrote a couple weeks ago, rendered the reusable menu null and void.
In some cases, a simple sign that connects customers to the menu might be the best way forward, at least for now.
A boat-load of third-party restaurant tech companies now offer contactless tech bundles that include digital menus, but I was intrigued this week after talking to Larry Oberly, CEO of SpreedPro.
SpeedPro isn’t a restaurant-tech company; it’s a large-format printing service with locations around the U.S. and Canada. Over the phone, Oberly explained that the company recently started offering these large-format signs with its new technology, called InfoLnkX, embedded into them. Customers just hold their phones up to the NFC-enabled decal on the sign, which pulls up the restaurant menu on that person’s device.
Oberly said the tech is highly customizable, which means different signs could take users to different digital places: the menu in one instance, a promotion coupon in another, a video somewhere else. Remember the days of strolling down the sidewalk and pausing at a random restaurant then asking to view their menu? Were a restaurant equipped with something like SpeedPro’s signage, a person could simply hold their phone up to a sign outside and pull up that info themselves instead of cramming around a bunch of other people to all view the same menu posted in the window.
Social distancing is obviously the motivator behind the tech. While an InfoLnkX-enabled sign isn’t quite as technically flashy as, say, a contactless dining bundle from a restaurant tech company, it could very well have it’s own place in the future of restaurants. Besides lessening the number of people crowding around to view the same menu, being able to browse a menu from their own device would help customers decide on what to order before they ever set foot in the restaurant, hopefully lessening the number of people in line and making the entire order process faster.
For restaurants struggling to stay afloat and trying to adjust to dozens of new operational realities, the best interim solution for the menu issue might be a case of simpler is better.
Disney, Dole Whip . . . Delivery?
At some theme parks, the food is as much a part of the experience as the rides. We’re getting neither at the moment, thanks to the pandemic, but that might change soon, at least where food is concerned.
This week, Disneyland asked its annual passholders if they would like theme park food items delivered to their home. Think funnel cakes, churros, and the ever-popular Dole Whip, not to mention more substantial meal items found at restaurants around the park.
Disney hasn’t made any promises or shared any plans beyond the survey question. And while I thought the news was odd at first, the more I sit with it, the more it actually makes sense. Hear me out.
Disneyland has yet to set a reopen date for its Anaheim, CA theme park, and a note on the site from this week said that date “has not been identified.” Giving diehards a chance to order their favorite foods from the park would in a small way keep fans locked into the Disney ecosystem. It would also help generate some sales for the theme park, which has obviously lost revenue since it closed up due to COVID-19. And if memory serves me correctly, much of the fare you get (sandwiches, salads, pretzels, popcorn) at Disneyland would travel well, making the items easier to deliver.
Again, there’s no official word this is happening, but if enough passholders are missing their Dole Whip and can’t adequately recreate it at home, Disney may have a new sales channel on its hands. That could in turn set a standard for other theme parks with memorable food items. Harry Potter World Butter Beer, I’m lookin’ at you.
Restaurant Tech Around the Web
DailyPay adds CYCLE to its instant pay app for restaurants. The app, which lets restaurant workers access their earnings immediately instead of waiting for a paycheck, now lets restaurants provide bonuses, termination pay, or other “off-cycle payments” to employees instantly.
To-go sales grew in May. Black Box Intelligence shared new data at the Restaurants Rise conference this week indicating an increase in sales for restaurant to-go orders for April (66.8 percent) and May (96.4 percent). “Everything that was lost in the way of dine-in sales, in some cases, was made up by … to go and off-premise,” Kelli Valade, Black Box Intelligence CEO and president, said during the conference.
Popeyes is getting a makeover. Chicken chain Popeyes plans to open 1,500 worldwide that feature an updated design (see image above) and lots of high-tech bells and whistles to make its operations more efficient.