As more cities and localities mandate proof of vaccination status for restaurant customers (or operators take on these restrictions themselves), technology is catching up to make the transition easier. Yelp, OpenTable, and SpotOn have all released features over the past couple of weeks to help restaurants and customers keep track of vaccine status and requirements.
In other technology news this month, we’re still seeing waves of funding for technology solutions companies like Bite Ninja, which provides virtual employee assistance for drive-thru labor lanes. Also, with Quiznos now accepting bitcoin as payment, the cryptocurrency trend appears to still be holding strong though there’s no telling when NFT payments might, *ahem*, byte the dust.
Tech Tracker rounds up what’s happening in the technology sector of the restaurant industry, including news from restaurants, vendors, digital platforms and third-party delivery companies. Here’s what you need to know:
OpenTable and SpotOn join Yelp in adding vaccine features
On the heels of Yelp adding vaccination policies and requirements to business profiles, OpenTable announced this week that the online reservations platform announced new features that let restaurants display their COVID-19 vaccine requirements. The option is part of the site’s existing “Safety Precautions” feature.
Going one step further, restaurant management platform SpotOn announced on Monday an update to their restaurant reservations platform which allows restaurants to keep track of vaccination compliance by requiring customers to confirm their party’s vaccination status when they make a reservation. Customers will be able to check a 'Party is Vaccinated' before the reservation confirmation is submitted and restaurants can choose whether to make this feature mandatory.
Of course, unlike manual vaccination proof checks, this feature may be more efficient but is largely based on the honors system and customers could easily bypass this requirement by checking the box no matter the vaccination status.
Quiznos is testing bitcoin payment
Quiznos announced earlier this month that the sandwich chain is partnering with digital asset marketplace, Bakkt to launch a pilot test that would allow customers to pay for their toasty subs in bitcoin. The pilot will be available at first in select locations across the Denver metropolitan area.
“As we continue our digital transformation journey and respond to mobile and millennial consumer demand for alternative and cryptocurrency payment options, we are excited to offer yet another accessible way for customers to buy a meal, in this case, through the Bakkt digital asset wallet,” Mark Lohmann, president of Quiznos parent company, Rego Restaurant Group, said in a statement.
As an incentive, customers who download the Bakkt app and use it to buy bitcoin and purchase Quiznos will receive $15 in bitcoin as a reward.
Grubhub launches assisted ordering in place of orders by phone
In addition to their new partnership with Olo, Grubhub also announced earlier this month an assisted ordering feature for customers that prefer the old-fashioned way of placing delivery orders. When a customer calls a number on a business’ Grubhub listing, they will be prompted to place an order via a Grubhub representative, who will then place the customer’s order electronically. Thew new feature is available at no additional cost than standard online order fees.
This is not the only move away from traditional customer service-by-phone: OpenTable also announced a similar feature recently, allowing customers to direct message a restaurant after making a reservation is made to avoid placing a phone call.
Bite Ninja secures almost $700k in pre-seed funding
Technology solutions startup, Bite Ninja — which connects restaurants with work-from-home employees to virtually operate their drive-thru lanes — just closed its round up pre-seed funding. The tech company raised $675,000 in the round, led by three private equity firms – Y-Combinator, AgFunder, and Manta Ray.
This pre-seed funding will allow Bite Ninja to scale their operation and prepare a rollout of their technology to national quick-service chains. As labor continues to be a major challenge for the industry at this point in the pandemic, outsourcing drive-thru operations to freelance “ninjas” looks like an attractive option for struggling restaurants.
“Our investors see the win-win outcomes that are made when business owners can lean on both their workers and technology to improve efficiency while creating a new, better environment for workers,” Will Clem, cofounder of Bite Ninja said in a statement.
Picnic invents pizza assembly line equipment
As the labor crunch continues, automation technology is becoming more popular in kitchens too. Restaurant technology company Picnic just announced the release of its Picnic Pizza System: an automated assembly line that is made to pump out 100 pizzas per hour.
The technology works with a restaurant’s pre-existing pizza recipes and ingredients to supplement kitchen capabilities in back of house.
Currently, it’s available via a monthly subscription plan for $3,500-$5,000 depending on configuration and production needs and Picnic is now taking pre-orders.
“The team has been working tirelessly with customers and strategic partners over the past year to fine tune the Picnic Pizza System,” Clayton Wood, CEO of Picnic, said in a statement. “We’re very proud of the solution that we have created. The validation we’ve received from industry partners and customers reaffirms the need for kitchen automation solutions like ours, and we are looking forward to an excellent year ahead.”
Tattle customer feedback service partners with Local Kitchens
Tom Colicchio-backed customer feedback platform Tattle announced this month a partnership with micro virtual food hall, Local Kitchens.
Tattle is an omnichannel service that allows customers to provide immediate feedback via automated surveys to restaurants so that operators can better gauge how to improve customer satisfaction.
“In the rapidly evolving restaurant category, disruptive food halls like Local Kitchens face unique challenges relative to the broader restaurant space,” Alex Beltrani, Tattle’s founder and CEO said in a statement. “Local Kitchens can obtain distinct advantages by using Tattleto elevate the guest experience, recover dissatisfied guests, and extend hospitality beyond the walls of their food halls.”
Appetize launches monthly subscription plan for cloud-based POS
Digital restaurant solutions platform, Appetize, announced this month that the company is launching Appetize Plus, a subscription plan that bundles their services in one monthly subscription fee. The subscription includes an upgrade to cloud POS, contactless payments and mobile ordering without extensive equipment remodeling and upfront costs.
The announcement comes at a time when restaurants are looking to combine or collaborate their in-house technology as more and more digital solutions companies are coming out with products.
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