While the pandemic is devastating the sector in the short term, messaging technology will play a vital role in helping restaurants recover, and adapt to a new world once the crisis subsides.
Restaurant doors have closed indefinitely around the world as the coronavirus has wreaked havoc across society; inevitably leading to a year-over-year global decline in seated diners of 100 per cent. Even once restaurants are allowed to reopen, it is clear the gastronomy sector will confronted by new challenges and restrictions.
Social distancing policies will mean a reduction in the numbers of customers allowed into a restaurant, while this 'fear factor' might deter some from going out altogether. Even existing, 'safer' options for ordering food are being reevaluated, whether it be using restaurant touchscreens or picking up food from outlets.
How pre-virus solutions can prepare us for an uncertain future
But here's the thing: The potential solutions to these challenges were already being addressed before the pandemic hit, although for very different reasons. Many food chains had been evolving their services to meet the increasing demand for takeout and home deliveries, especially among younger generations.
For example, pre-pandemic and 24% of Gen Zers ordered in around four times a week, preferring to eat their meals while binging on Netflix rather than in a restaurant.
In a post coronavirus world though, this emerging preference – combined with a new demand for increased safety — will likely see takeout requests increase even further. The real question here is: How can food chains adapt to successfully manage this new demand? The answer is by going digital.
How WhatsApp Business replaces physical with digital
As with takeout trends, the demand for digital touch points in food chain services was growing before the pandemic. Traditional offline touch points such as calling in an order had been falling out of favor with consumers; 67% of people who had previously ordered digitally via a website or app, said they preferred the digital experience.
Digital platforms such as WhatsApp in particular have been gaining traction because they tackle many of the issues raised by the increased demand for takeout orders, convenience, and in the current climate, processes that address customer coronavirus' health/safety concerns, all because a takeout order can be managed almost entirely using digital channels.
Here are six reasons why WhatsApp is a potential game-changer for food chains wanting to get back on track once stay-at-home orders are lifted:
1. Extend reach
WhatsApp is used by over two billion people every day to chat, meet and increasingly, to order and pay for items — including food orders — all from within the app. Currently, the private messaging platform already plays a significant role in many users' everyday lives, making it the ideal channel for food chains to leverage.
2. Fight app fatigue
Yes, there are food ordering apps out there already, but there is a bigger problem — 'app fatigue'. For example, Android offers users 2.47 million apps while Apple App Store features 1.8 million. That's a huge amount, and explains why users have become increasingly tired of downloading a single app that provides a single service. Instead, they are looking for apps able to perform multiple services; in other words, WhatsApp.
3. Take advantage
WhatsApp is one of Facebook's trio of social platforms that includes, yes, Facebook and also Instagram. Both these hugely popular platforms offer an ad format that can feature a WhatsApp 'Click-to-chat' button. These allow hungry customers to click on the ad button, and instantly start ordering. Powered by wa.me links, 'conversation starter' buttons can also be rolled out on official websites so again, when the customer clicks, a conversation is launched right away.
Complement these powerful features with QR codes on offline advertising such as billboards or packaging and, combined, WhatsApp Business enables food chains to take advantage of a fast, intuitive, and friction-free platform for customer takeout orders. For more advice on increasing a business's WhatsApp presence, click here.
4. Enable automation
Inexpensive self-service chatbot solutions can be integrated with WhatsApp Business, freeing staff entirely from the ordering process. A chatbot can cover the entire customer journey in-app from presenting menus and taking orders to confirming delivery addresses, taking payment, and updating the customer via notifications (see use case below). If there are any special instructions on how food should be handed over during the delivery itself, this can also be specified during ordering.
5. Notify better
WhatsApp Business allows food chains to send rich media such as images, PDFs, and maps, enabling brands to display menus, send out receipts/delivery notifications, and more. Also, if a complex issue should arise — say, the order is wrong — the customer can reach out via WhatsApp, and connect to a live worker in instant for swift complaint resolution.
6. Increase security
Before the pandemic, 68% of US consumers felt concerned about their security on the internet, and these figures will undoubtedly rise in the future as the FBI says cybercrime reports have quadrupled during the pandemic. To combat consumer fears, WhatsApp offers end-to-end encryption with only the customer and the business being able to view any messaging. Better still, all messages/media auto delete after a set period.
To further increase consumer confidence, Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) can be deployed if required plus verification badges displayed to reassure the customer that they are talking to a bona fide company, and not a scammer.
WhatsApp Business Use Case: Fast Casual Food Chain
The benefits of WhatsApp Business are already being leveraged successfully within the sector, including by a large Mexican food chain.
Here's how a typical order is handled by the national outlet using WhatsApp Business combined with a chatbot:
- The customer sees an ad for the food chain in their Facebook newsfeed, and presses on the 'Click-to-chat' WhatsApp button. WhatsApp opens up on their device, the chat beginning instantly:
Chatbot: Hi, what would you like to order? Here's our afternoon menu. Just tap in the number of the dish you want.
Chatbot: This dish comes with two options — A or B .
Chatbot: OK. If you would like to order more than one of this dish, type 'Yes'. Type 'No' to enter the next dish number. Type 'Cuenta' if you don't want anything else.
Chatbot: OK, you ordered Dish 8 with Option A — that's a total of 45 Pesos. Is that correct? Type 'Yes' to continue or 'No' to reorder.
Chatbot: Do you want to pick up or have your food delivered? Type 'Yes' to pick up or 'No' for home delivery.
Chatbot: Okay, here is the address you gave us last time. You want to use this one? Type 'Yes' to confirm or 'No' to enter another address.
- The chatbot offers a summary of the order, and asks the customer to confirm. Once confirmation is received, the order goes straight through to restaurant staff for processing.
Now is the time to plan a digital path out of the pandemic
While recovering from the effects of the pandemic will be a challenging process for both individual restaurants and large food chains, digital platforms such as WhatsApp offer a potential lifeline for reestablishing confidence in nervous consumers, as well as offering them a more friction-free customer experience.
By adopting CX technologies like WhatsApp Business, the sector can begin on its recovery today so it is better prepared to adapt, change and prosper tomorrow — no matter what the future may hold.
Webinar: How WhatsApp Food Ordering Helps Restaurants in a Post-Coronavirus World
Learn more about how WhatsApp can transform food chain customer experience and safety by attending the webinar How WhatsApp Food Ordering Helps Restaurants in a Post-Coronavirus World being held on May 28th at 10am CEST/4pm CEST.
- 1,500 WhatsApp free messages included!
Fast onboarding and guidance every step of the way