Is traditional service on its way out in hospitality?

Learn how to combine exceptional customer service with the latest contactless technologies to ensure you continue to give your customers a great experience.

Is traditional service on its way out in hospitality?

Friendly small talk with your server, personal recommendations and being treated like a VIP are all part of the experience that people are willing to pay for.

It’s incredible how much a simple facial expression can elevate the customer experience. Research has long suggested that service with a smile reinforces the relationship between restaurant and customer, increasing tips and repurchase intentions.

But over the past year, with tight dine-in restrictions and employees’ smiling faces veiled by masks, restaurants have relied on contactless dining solutions to keep the orders rolling in. So has technology permanently rendered traditional table service obsolete? Not likely.

Service with a smile is not a thing of the past. When combined with contactless technology, it elevates the dining experience for both restaurants and their patrons. Contactless ordering and payment ensure safety, speed and accuracy, allowing waitstaff to focus on adding that irreplaceable personal touch when serving customers—all contributing to a healthier bottom line for businesses.

Personal connections are still a major part of the dining experience

Despite shifts in dining habits and indications that contactless dining is here to stay, consumers still look forward to getting back to the classic server-diner dynamic. According to a survey by Restaurant Dive, about a quarter of diners are ready to return to casual indoor dining like they enjoyed pre-pandemic.

Being waited upon provides a luxurious experience unlike anything else. People want delicious food and terrific experiences without having to do the work (shopping/cooking/cleaning) themselves. Sure, contactless tech makes things convenient, but the crucial human element is what keeps customers happy and coming back.

Friendly small talk with your server, personal recommendations and being treated like a VIP are all part of the experience that people are willing to pay for.

Friendly small talk with your server, personal recommendations and being treated like a VIP are all part of the experience that people are willing to pay for.

A great server knows how to make a personal connection and make their customers feel special. While some may believe contactless removes some of the social aspect of dining out – it certainly has its merits, many of which help servers and workers reallocate their time to focus on other things, like customer satisfaction.

The back and forth of bringing menus, taking orders and collecting payment eats up a lot of servers’ time. Tedious tasks also take the focus away from those friendly conversations that are a cherished part of the dining experience. When you set your restaurant up to accommodate browsing, ordering and paying via mobile devices, servers can devote more time to creating memorable interactions with guests and leaving a positive impression, increasing the likelihood of repeat business.

There are valid reasons to adopt contactless elements

Contactless dining skyrocketed out of necessity during the pandemic. But the contactless experience has numerous benefits, which brands like Starbucks anticipate consumers will continue favoring in the future.

During the pandemic, going contactless meant minimizing points where the customer and staff shared physical surfaces or closely interacted. This is achieved by using digital menus and implementing technology that facilitates contactless ordering and payment processes. Now, in the pandemic’s wake, the advantages of contactless technology have made its adoption by restaurants and consumers a natural choice in addition to reintroducing human interaction.


Contactless dining prioritizes health and safety

Interest in public health and safety took center stage throughout the pandemic—a standard that will remain in the “next normal.” Contactless dining aligns perfectly with keeping both customers and staff safe.

As consumers—especially the younger generations—return to casual restaurant dining in full force, they want to see that frontline workers’ safety, as well as their own, is a priority. Alongside reimagined restaurant layouts, contactless tech gives consumers peace of mind by minimizing the need for physical touchpoints. This setup doesn’t just keep staff safe—it also leaves a positive impression on consumers.

Our beloved devices become a central part of the dining experience

It’s no secret: people love their smartphones. It’s not uncommon to see someone attempting to eat their meal with one hand, smartphone tightly gripped in the other, as they browse social media or check their emails.

People also love sharing photos and reviews of their dining experiences using their devices. Contactless tech takes the combination of smartphones and dining even further by integrating those devices with the ordering process.

Contactless dining brings menus, ordering and payment directly to customers’ personal screens. When customers order from interactive digital menus, restaurants can highlight special promotions and offer personalization more easily than with traditional menus. Couple that with payment processing directly from their devices, and your guests are in for a memorable and convenient contactless dining experience.


NCR contactless dine-in for restaurants


NCR contactless dine-in for restaurants


Contactless tech leaves less room for human error  

Restaurants can be noisy, hectic environments. It can be hard for servers to hear every order accurately, let alone while customers’ speech is muffled by masks. Factor in the staff’s high stress levels during peak hours, and there are bound to be some mistakes with orders.

Contactless technology counteracts inaccuracies by putting the power in customers’ hands. Customers place orders themselves through their devices, adding customizations or special requests, if needed. This means fewer discrepancies between what they request and what arrives at the table, elevating satisfaction and improving your restaurant’s relationship with your customers.

Contactless technology should reinforce—not replace—service with a smile

Service with a smile delivers a level of care that can’t be matched by technology. Instead of taking over the dining experience completely, contactless solutions should be used to bolster the efforts of waitstaff to consistently deliver winning customer service.

Use contactless technology for the backend stuff and give servers their time to shine. The marriage of contactless tech and service with a smile can be the perfect driver for business efficiency and an improved customer experience in hospitality. Bon appetite!