Nation’s Restaurant News spoke with Kunwar Gill, vice president of product and hospitality with Epos Now, about his restaurant industry technology predictions for the coming year. Epos Now is a UK-based cloud software provider with operations in 71 countries, including the U.S. Gill is an industry thought leader with more than a decade of experience in product management, technology and hospitality.
What do you think is going to be the biggest restaurant technology trend of 2022?
There's definitely going to be a rise in contactless ordering, whether it's online ordering for takeout or dine-in and delivery. I think contactless payments is also picking up.
Do you think we will see any changes in digital experience or mobile apps after they exploded during the pandemic?
I think you're going to start to see a bigger shift for restaurants to move to their own online ordering platform. We start to see other POS providers have their own built-in solution giving you an online ordering software product that's going to be commission-free, and that way you're not giving 30% to Uber or DoorDash, etc.
We’re also seeing third-party delivery companies begin to offer different options for operators to convince them to stay.
Yes, and I also think you’re going to see a sizeable shift toward FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods). So you’re starting to see these delivery companies saying, “I’ve got your pizza and also an order of ice cream from the local gas station.” It’s going to be a blending of consumer goods and hospitality coming together.
Where do you think we’ll begin to see robots more regularly?
I think for simple things that can be automated, like drinks, you can definitely have a robot. I think once you get to things that are a little bit more complicated, you might not. You might have a robot runner that takes the food from the kitchen to the table.
Will the ghost kitchen bubble burst?
I think there's a place for ghost kitchens now and in the future. I don't think traditional restaurants are going to go away, but I expect to see more ghost kitchens. There are people operating kitchens out of their houses now. We’ve seen the rise of the creator economy, right? So how do you build a platform where anybody can be a chef and a content creator? And then how do you sell your food and share that with the world? People will be able to monetize that soon.
How do you think the digital loyalty program will continue to evolve?
It's always more expensive to get a new customer than to have a repeat customer come back. Once you have someone in your system, it’s going to be a lot easier to send them templated emails to say, “I've got your favorite coffee order. I'll give you 40% off if you come before 5 p.m.” I think we’re going to start to see more tailored orders. Previously, this has only been available to big chains like McDonald’s and Starbucks. So just making that readily available to all and having that trickle-down effect to the smaller brands will be crucial. Loyalty is definitely going to be big.
One of the things that Square does really well is when you go to a Square restaurant, they will save your card information. So the next time you go to a different place, but they also have Square, it'll already have your name, credit card and phone number built in. So, they've tokenized your information. I think you’re going to see more POS companies do that.
What front-of-house technology will we see next year?
If I go to a restaurant and I sit down, I want to talk to someone because I like being served. I like that hospitality. But what I don't like is waiting to pay. I have to call over the server, then wait for the receipt to come through, sign it, leave it there. I think QR code ordering might phase out a little bit after the pandemic dies down. But I think payments without waiting for the server are going to pick up because that's always been a problem.
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