Seventy-six percent of restaurants said they will continue offering contactless tech this year, according to Square's Future of Restaurants 2021 report, which includes findings from a survey of 500 operators.
The survey, which was conducted by Wakefield Research from Dec. 9, 2020 to Dec. 21, 2020, found that 61% of restaurants plan to continue offering contactless payment options for dine-in customers, while 88% said they would consider swapping in digital menus for physical menus.
While the pandemic forced 85% of operators to completely reorganize their operations, restaurant owners are increasingly adopting contactless technology, takeout and delivery services, resulting in a significant change in how they interact with and take orders from guests.
Contactless technology has increasingly become the standard for off-premise channels, especially because a majority of customers tend to order online or through third-party aggregators.
But adopting contactless technology in the dining room was less popular with operators, until the pandemic. Menus are considered one of the germiest items in a restaurant since they pass through so many hands. Many restaurants adopted single-use menus over the past year, but that can increase waste and operational costs.
QR codes have been an inexpensive solution here, allowing guests to scan the codes with their smartphones to view menus and, in some cases, order as well. A bulk of the adopters of digital menus since the pandemic were full-service operators, with 54% of casual dining, 50% of fine dining and 48% of family dining restaurants shifting their menus online, according to the National Restaurant Association's 2021 State of the Restaurant Industry report. Forty percent of operators also added a contactless or mobile payment option last year, according to the NRA.
It's not likely that operators are going to shift back. Forty-seven percent of owners or managers that already offer digital menus through a URL or online platform said they are "very likely" to switch to all digital menus, according to Square's survey.
"If you go to other markets outside the U.S., everything's contactless and payments are often taken tableside," Bruce Bell, head of Square for Restaurants, said in the report. "The human-interaction element of dining is never going to go away, but I think U.S. restaurants will use touch-free payments and QR-code menus in a way that will help them turn more tables and save costs on the overhead of menu and labor."
With 92% of restaurants planning to make changes to their menus and 47% saying they will cut items or completely change their menus this year, according to Square's survey, having a digital version could make it easier to do so by avoiding reprinting.