Optimism Amidst Economic Challenges: The Restaurant Industry Turns the Tables With Tech

end-demic strategy QR code menu scan

By Brian Duncan, President of me&u USA

The White House announced the end of the national and public health emergencies for COVID-19 on May 11, 2023.1 The global impact of the pandemic led to widespread disruptions in every industry, with restaurants, bars, and hospitality sustaining the most damage.

Even three years later, restaurants are struggling with staffing challenges and rising operational costs due to inflation. However, an affordable technological solution, QR scan-order-pay at-table ordering, is helping restaurants survive and thrive in the post-pandemic era. This technology reduces labor costs, improves operational efficiency, increases profits, and strengthens relationships with staff and customers. As businesses recover, they must shore up their defenses against the seemingly inevitable recession and embrace technology that many restaurateurs once considered a luxury they couldn’t afford.

The Aftermath of the Pandemic

As life slowly returns to normal, remnants of the pandemic still linger. The purchasing power of a dollar in 2023 has diminished to 84.746% of its value in 2020, as per the Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer price index.2 Individuals with no history of social avoidance are grappling with re-entry anxiety and struggling to readjust to school, work, physical contact, and social gatherings.3

The restaurant industry suffered more than a few blows during the peak of the pandemic. The National Restaurant Association reported a staggering $240 billion drop in restaurant and food service sales compared to their pre-pandemic forecasts for 2020, with 2.5 million jobs lost in the industry. By the end of 2020, sales volume plummeted to 2014 levels, setting the industry back by six years.4

Promising Predictions

The restaurant industry is bouncing back with renewed momentum. According to the 2023 State of the Restaurant Industry report, three-quarters of restaurant operators believe business is returning to a new and improved normal. The projected growth of the food service industry is set to reach $997 billion in sales for 2023, partially influenced by inflation. Additionally, the workforce is expected to expand by 500,000 jobs, bringing total employment in the industry to 15.5 million by the end of the year, surpassing pre-pandemic levels.5

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Dining out is reclaiming its position at the forefront of American social activities. In 2023, 34% of people in the United States reported visiting casual dining restaurants at least once a week. Monthly spending on dining out has reached a substantial $70.1 billion, and the average household allocates $3,008 per year eating at restaurants rather than rummaging through their own refrigerators.6

However, challenges persist within the industry. There are still 2 million unfilled positions in the hospitality sector,7 and inflation has significantly increased the cost of food, with 92% of restaurant operators expressing concern over higher food prices.5 The restaurant industry remains vulnerable to economic instability, with the economy perpetually on the verge of a recession that affects labor markets, supply chains, food and equipment costs, and wage growth. Despite the positive trends, there are ongoing obstacles to navigate.

Discount Dilemma

Maintaining the delicate balance between keeping customers satisfied and avoiding price-driven customer loss is a significant challenge for restaurateurs. The essence of the hospitality industry lies in creating a friendly and inviting atmosphere. Nevertheless, in order to sustain their businesses, restaurant owners often need to make some difficult decisions.

One possible solution that comes to mind is implementing coupons and promotions. However, experts hold varying opinions on their effectiveness. Some caution that such strategies can devalue the restaurant’s image. Without a carefully crafted approach, customers may become skeptical of price fluctuations followed by sudden deals and discounts. Instead, offering “perks” as a token of gratitude for continued patronage can create a sense of appreciation rather than purely trying to attract new customers.8 It’s important to note that coupons can negatively impact the bottom line if the losses incurred do not translate into consistently higher foot traffic and increased revenue.9

QR Code Scan, Order, and Pay

Restaurant owners faced with staffing challenges and an uncertain future have some undesirable options to consider. They can reduce their labor force, resulting in overworked staff, or compromise on customer service by cutting corners. A better option that pays more dividends, in the long run, is to embrace technology that improves efficiency, enhances the customer experience, and lightens the workload for restaurant employees.

Scan-order-pay is an innovative technology solution that utilizes the simplicity and convenience of a smartphone. By scanning a QR code, guests can effortlessly browse an interactive menu, place their orders, and complete the payment process with a single click. This streamlined approach saves time and effort for both customers and staff, resulting in improved operational efficiency and a more enjoyable dining experience for customers.

Smartphone technology has become a ubiquitous part of people’s lives, with over 6.92 billion smartphone users worldwide.10 QR code scan-order-pay utilizes this familiar technology, allowing customers to easily navigate menus, access detailed information about food and beverages, and receive prompts and recommendations to enhance their ordering experience.

And by eliminating human error and the friction points associated with manual processes, QR code technology improves efficiency and empowers servers to cover larger sections. Managers can optimize their current staff, leading to better flexibility and more efficient operations. Servers can focus on what they do best by engaging diners and creating memorable moments.

The interactive nature of the technology allows diners to enjoy a unique virtual experience combined with a vibrant social setting. Restaurant owners can customize their virtual menus, highlight specials and promotions, and track guests’ dining trends. QR code ordering facilitates upselling, leading to larger checks and better tips for servers, ultimately maximizing staff retention. By reducing manual order entry, scan-order-pay improves accuracy and mitigates the risks of fraud and chargebacks. It empowers customers to order at their leisure, increasing round frequency and minimizing walkouts due to slow service or incorrect orders.

By incorporating QR code scan-order-pay technology into their operations, restaurant owners can support their employees, enhance revenue and efficiency, and provide a distinctive dining experience without compromising the personalized interactions between restaurant staff and guests, encouraging customer loyalty and repeat business.


Brian Duncan me&u meanduBrian Duncan is the President of me&u USA. With over a decade of leadership experience in hospitality, Brian is a veteran in the industry with an unrivalled resume that demonstrates disruption through technology. He holds a strong passion for the industry and is determined to build a better future for hospitality. Founded in 2018 by Stevan Premutico, me&u is a leading global order & pay platform utilizing advanced features to drive success in hospitality businesses. Specializing in pubs and bars, me&u presents the smarter way to order and pay, using technology which allows restaurant patrons to view menus on their phones via a quick tap or scanning a QR code. They can then order and pay for food and drinks without needing a waiter or having to leave their seats.  The pandemic forced the hospitality industry to adopt smart technologies as tools for becoming sustainable ─ now business decisions are driven by data. Me&u opened the door for additional technology to solve many of the problems facing the hospitality industry. They have embraced the basic tenets of human behavior and are revolutionizing food and beverage venues. The next 10 years in hospitality will drive operators to adapt to changing human behaviors and marry that with technology… technology that enables hospitality success – but does not replace human interaction.  Me&u’s growth has enabled expansion beyond their native Australia with operations in the U.K., New Zealand, and the U.S. Me&u now operates five entities in four countries and four currencies. Scan.Order.Pay. For more inspiration visit their website


References

  1. Juliette Cubanski; Follow @jcubanski on Twitter, J. K. F. @jenkatesdc on T. (2023, February 10). What happens when covid-19 emergency declarations end? implications for coverage, costs, and access. KFF. Link
  2. Inflation rate between 2020-2023: Inflation calculator. $1 in 2020 → 2023 | Inflation Calculator. (n.d.). Link
  3. Struggling with social anxiety as we prepare for re-entry post-COVID? anxiety expert shares how to Cope. Penn Medicine. (n.d.). Link
  4. (2021, January 26). Restaurants staged nimble responses to Covid’s blows in 2020, but 6 years of growth were wiped away. CNBC. Link
  5. 2023 state of the restaurant industry . NRA. (n.d.). Link
  6. Gitnux, A. (2023, May 29). Americans eat out statistics and trends in 2023 • gitnux. GITNUX. Link
  7. Latham, T. (2023, February 3). Restaurants are still struggling to hire as 2 million jobs remain unfilled. Robb Report. Link 
  8. (2022, June 25). Are your discounts devaluing your restaurant?. Hospitality Marketing Agency, Gourmet Marketing. Link
  9. Epstein, L. (2022, December 17). The Pros and cons of using coupons for your business. Investopedia. Link
  10. Turner, A., Author;Ash Turner:bankmycell.com/ Ash Turner is the CEO of BankMyCell. Following university graduation in 2003, Author:, & Ash Turner is the CEO of BankMyCell. Following university graduation in 2003. (2023, June 7). 3.12 billion more phones than people in the world!. BankMyCell. Link
  • T&S Brass Eversteel Pre-Rinse Units
  • RAK Porcelain
  • Imperial Dade
  • Inline Plastics Safe-T-Chef
  • BelGioioso Burrata
  • McKee Foodservice
  • DAVO Sales Tax
  • Simplot Frozen Avocado
  • AyrKing Mixstir
  • Day & Nite
  • RATIONAL USA