Monday the 17th May 2021, was a day of jubilation and relief. Jubilation for hospitality owners that could reopen their indoor dining to the public after over five months closed, and relief for cold, drenched foodies that longed for a bite to eat – without a downpour. The fallacy of a UK summertime is something we’re all too familiar with. 

But as we flock back to our favourite pubs, cafes and restaurants and celebrate their resilience, we reflect on the achievements and advancements they’ve made to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Like most industries, technology proved indispensable for restaurants during the national lockdowns. Not just to keep them trading, but to keep them connected with their loyal followers. From Instagram Live cookalongs to Q&As with their head chefs, we’ve seen small businesses pivot to a digital-first mindset at a praiseworthy pace.

Although it’s been an unnerving experience, there have ultimately been great positives from this change. So we wanted to know whether the shift to digital was a change that the hospitality industry was willing to embrace after the pandemic. Or was it just a stop-gap that helped them survive? 

To find out, we surveyed 300 small-to-medium hospitality owners and management and 500 avid restaurant-goers across March and April, 2021. Here’s what we found.

Order & pay is here to stay

Adopted by pubs, restaurants and bars in the summer of 2020 – order & pay technology has helped the industry manage many pain points. 

From social distancing to table service, it’s something we expect to grow, not disappear when restrictions lift. And our research shows that 95% of restaurants already offering order & pay to customers will continue to do so

Not only does it allow for excellent customer service, but it optimises logistics and streamlines the roles of waiting staff.

Online menus are on the up

Reducing touchpoints was an essential step in keeping diners safe. One of these touchpoints was physical menus. While most diners may not have a preference – or would prefer a physical menu in more normal times – digital menus have helped streamline the process for order & pay solutions. 

Over half of the hospitality owners we surveyed will keep their online menus and physical ones. But some owners or managers are ditching their paper for good, going all out with digital menus only.

If you’re a small restaurant considering going for digital-only menus, remember to make them completely accessible. This means reasonable font styles and content hosted on widely available technology. 

Restaurants depend on delivery in 2021

In 2020-21, we saw small restaurants pivot their offering online to deliver customers meals to their doors. Whether this was through third-party apps, online websites or ecommerce, it was a crucial pivot that meant the industry could continue trading.

Now with 80% of small restaurants offering some sort of takeaway or delivery service, it’s hard to imagine life without it. 

And although takeaways will take a back seat as we head back outside to share meals with loved ones, 55% of hospitality owners we surveyed said they still expect to be dependent on delivery this year.

Consumers spend more when ordering food online, compared to over the phone

When it comes to takeaway or delivery services, we asked consumers their preferred way of ordering food – over the phone, on an app or online through a website. 29% of respondents said they’d be more likely to reorder from a restaurant if they had an online offering.

So if you’re a restaurant owner that’s safely reopened this week, find out how to accept efficient and secure contactless payments with our range of portable and mobile card machines.