Curbside pickup is here to stay, and so too is the dining room, judging from restaurant tech startup Olo’s latest announcement. The company announced two new features this week aimed at smoother, more efficient service for off-premises orders. The new features include arrival notifications for curbside orders and order-ahead capabilities for dine-in guests, according to a press release sent to The Spoon.
Olo’s main businesses is to make the management of off-premises orders simpler and easier for restaurants. Its software funnels the orders coming from different sales channels (DoorDash versus social media versus an in-house kiosk) into a single ticket stream and directly into a restaurant’s main POS system. That means less juggling of tablets for the staff and a lower risk for mistakes, since humans aren’t manually keying in orders from a delivery service’s tablet to the POS.
Eight months ago, that kind of streamlined management was a nice-to-have. Thanks to the pandemic, which has shuttered dining rooms across the country and forced the restaurant biz to lean on delivery and takeout, a platform like Olo’s is a must-have. But given the evolving needs of restaurants, no restaurant tech company should rest on its laurels right now. To stay valuable and relevant to restaurants, they too, need to evolve.
Olo appears to be doing just that with its new bundle of features. The need for speed when it comes to curbside pickup is well documented. Olo’s new feature is available as of now for restaurants using the company’s Expo tablet. When a customer arrives and hits an “I’m here” button, the system automatically notifies the restaurant. It’s not as automatic as, say, geofence-enabled curbside pickup, but it saves customers from having to dial an actual phone number and wait for a human to pick up.
The other big feature Olo released this week, it’s Dine-In Support, may get less use in the near term, though it’s a wise long-term strategy. The function allows customers to order and pay for meals they intend to eat in the dining room.
At one point, this particular technology felt superfluous, and at the moment, cities across the U.S. have closed down indoor dining so there isn’t a great need for it. But someday, we’ll be able to eat in an actual restaurant again, and by then, consumer preferences around speed, efficiency, and social distance will have been firmly embedded into their routines, even when it comes to restaurants. While there’s something a little depressing about a restaurant experience based solely on those factors, it’s inescapably the future for many. Seen in that light, Olo is an early mover in what will be a long-term behavior change. (Fellow restaurant tech company Allset is also a known leader in this area.)
The above features are both available right now, at no extra cost to existing Olo customers.