Food retail has been the star sector of the pandemic: not only was it able to continue with click-and-collect even while other retail outlets were ordered to close, it was for many a welcome touch of normality and joy during the long, dark and very much indoor winter.
Restaurants were happy to keep going in any way possible, but are now looking forward to truly re-opening, said Eddie Carty, co-owner and chief executive of Captiva POS.
“Click-and-collect was banned for most retail, but we kept it going for the restaurants and takeaways. Still, the bars and restaurants are now looking forward to reopening,” he said.
Captiva POS develops a fully integrated, end-to-end cloud software system for the food service industry: from ordering to payments and a lot more besides, Captiva’s platform has long sought to drive efficiency in the kitchen, but today it is taking on the challenge of preparing diners for their blinking re-entry into the sunlight.
Restaurants will soon open, outdoors at first, and the public will doubtlessly be divided between those champing at the bit for a bit of wining and dining and those suffering from social hesitancy.
Captiva’s software can help even with that.
“We’ve brought integrated payments to a whole new level: we can take orders with handheld devices at the table, allow customers to order on their own phone, pay on their phone, print the order to the kitchen and behind it all Captiva POS is working away,” said Carty.
Picture the scene: diners in newly created outdoor spaces and beer gardens, ordering on smartphone apps, secure in the knowledge that their order is going through while respecting all of the government’s sanitary restrictions and advice.
This is doubly true for the restaurants: hygiene and staff safety are assured, and confusion about orders eliminated, Carty said.
“The orders are all driven to our prep screens and driver stations indoors,” he said.
Quick service restaurants (QSRs) and takeaways have been leading the pack with technological investment, arguably because they have already been working with new ordering tech such as self-service touchscreens, but the post-Covid landscape will look very different for the entire food sector, said Carty. For example, restaurants that never before delivered food now do.
“Most restaurants, 90 per cent, will take a delivery as well as do table service,” he said. “It’s why we have the full end-to-end ordering capacity.”
Another change is the disappearance of cash: Ireland has taken to cards and contactless with abandon and other innovative payment schemes such as gift cards. Captiva’s platform is fully integrated with BOIPA (BOI Payment Acceptance) for payment processing;
“The order goes through and the restaurant or takeaway then gets the money. Cash has been almost going out the window. It’s all debit or credit cards now, or even gift cards,” he said.
Captiva provides the gift cards to restaurants, which customers can then top up and use as they please. This helps to drive loyalty, as does Captiva’s support for customised loyalty schemes.
As Captiva’s software is cloud-based it not only eliminates capital expenditure, but also allows managers and owners to understand what is really going on.
With a quick tap on their phone or by logging in to a website sales data can be seen, live, historical or aggregated as required, said Carty.
“They can see live sales, how many orders are going through per hour, how many takeaway orders, how many sit-in orders, everything.”
The experience may just prove to be as transformative for customers, though, said Carty.
“People also like that they can sit in the booth or at the table and not worry: they sit and talk and enjoy themselves, and that will remain true when things truly get back to normal. Once you use the technology you won’t want to stop,” he said.
Indeed, Carty said that information technology has not only driven a transformation of restaurants, it has been an integral factor in keeping the Irish economy ticking over.
“The technology has become essential in the restaurant, particularly QSR, market. It has proved itself, and it has proved that you can continue to do business,” he said.