Using Restaurant Tech to Ride Out the Delta Variant—and Whatever Else the World Throws Your Way

Whether you need to meet proof of vaccination requirements, bolster guest confidence in the face of a new mask mandate, or better manage your ratio of dine-in versus online orders, new restaurant technology can help.

4 months ago   •   4 min read

By Garrett Calcaterra

The good news is that guests are tired of staying home and are back to frequenting their favorite restaurants and bars. The bad news is that the pandemic has driven hospitality workers away in droves, creating a massive labor shortage—but you already knew that. The really bad news is that coronavirus cases are again surging across the United States, with 43,700 COVID cases per day and growing as of June 23, and no one knows exactly how the Delta variant is going to impact the hospitality industry.

While there’s been no talk of capacity restrictions, yet, Nevada and the city of Los Angeles have reinstated mask mandates for public indoor places, even for people who are vaccinated, and more generally, restaurant industry experts worry that rising COVID rates could chase even more restaurant workers away, as well as guests if the Delta variant gets bad enough. Many restaurants have responded by voluntarily requiring indoor mask usage, while some restaurants and bars are requiring proof of vaccination, including the Union Square Hospitality Group in New York, to ensure the health and peace-of-mind of employees and guests alike.

As a restaurant operator, there’s no way to control what government agencies will do or how the public will react en masse, but what you can control is using new technology to pivot quickly. Three solutions, in particular, are helping restaurants handle proof of vaccination and mask mandates, while simultaneously managing through labor shortages and driving revenue.

Digital reservations & waitlisting.

Traditionally, reservation and waitlisting systems were limited to the realm of fine dining, but the pandemic changed all of that. Contact tracing requirements forced many casual and family dining restaurants to implement reservation solutions—which ended up helping their business in other ways. Here’s how any restaurant with sit-down dining can now benefit from a digital reservation & waitlisting platform.

  • Increase guest confidence. Your customers want to know they have a table waiting for them before they show up to eat, especially when social distancing. A reservation system like SpotOn Reserve enables your guests to book a reservation or add themselves to your digital waitlist from home, eliminating crowded waiting areas.
  • Manage labor and inventory better. In addition to automating online reservation booking, a reservation platform also helps you track phone reservations and walk-ins. By having a clear view of the total number of guests you expect every day and over each shift, you’ll be able to schedule staff and food inventory accordingly, avoiding overstaffing and wastage.
  • Keep proof of vaccination and contact tracing records. With all of your guests already accounted for in your reservation software, it’s a simple matter to add guest information for vaccine requirements to your digital guest notes, or even require guests to acknowledge proof of vaccination when booking online—helping you meet record keeping requirements that your state or local government may require, while simultaneously mitigating potentially heated interactions between your staff and upset guests.
  • Reduce no-shows, cancellations, and walkaways. The beauty of digital tech is that it takes care of time-consuming tasks for you. SpotOn Reserve, for example, sends automated reservation confirmations and reminders, minimizing no-shows, and also uses AI to calculate real-time wait-times so your guests know exactly when their table is ready, reducing walkaways and cancellations.

Online ordering with pacing.

SpotOn Order online ordering for restaurants

Online ordering was a lifesaver when restaurants were forced to close dining rooms, and it continues to be a huge revenue-driver with guests now accustomed to the convenience of ordering takeout and delivery. And with a commission-free platform like SpotOn Order, it also offers huge savings compared to using third-party delivery apps. Here’s how it can be further leveraged to quickly pivot as the pandemic continues to evolve.

  • Reach more hungry guests. Online ordering with SpotOn helps you reach more guests directly, without relying on apps. In addition to adding a guest-friendly online ordering portal to your website, your guests can also order directly from web searches thanks to our Order with Google integration. This keeps a steady flow of online orders coming in without taking huge hits to your bottom line from third-party app commissions.
  • Easily throttle online orders when the kitchen is busy. With the ongoing shortage of cooks and servers, you might not be able to meet the demand for both dine-in and takeout orders. SpotOn Order pacing allows you to be flexible and control how many online orders you accept over any period of time. Dial back online orders when the dining room is busy, and then open it up during slow periods—or if local authorities order partial dining room closures.

Cloud-based restaurant reporting.

Restaurant point-of-sale reporting helping restaurants respond to COVID Delta surge.

The most powerful aspect of an integrated restaurant management system like SpotOn Restaurant is you have a single system to streamline operations and collect usable data at every step, rather than relying on a disjointed set of software and apps. Every reservation, every online order, and every dine-in guest is giving you valuable data points that come together in easily understandable reports, so you can make smarter decisions.

  • See trends as they’re happening. With SpotOn Restaurant’s cloud-based reporting, you can see real-time trends with your menu, staffing, and guests. From daily sales recaps to detailed product mixes broken down by employees, menu groups, and modifiers, you’re able to get to the information you need faster, and dig deeper when you see sudden changes caused by the COVID Delta surge or anything else.
  • Make changes in real-time. When your front-of-house, back-of-house, and reporting are all part of a single system, you now have the information and ability to pivot quickly. You can address problems in the kitchen when you see certain menu items regularly discounted or refunded. You can adjust your menu for maximum margins for both dine-in and online ordering. And you can maximize your staff—even if you’re running a skeleton crew—to get the most out of your peak hours.

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