In the Wake of Closings and Layoffs, How Can the Airport Restaurant Industry Bounce Back?

The travel industry is one that’s been especially hard hit by COVID. As a result, the airport restaurant industry has also suffered through a vicious round of closings and layoffs. 

Now that things have begun to open up a bit, how can airport foodservice vendors regain their footing? Here are a few strategies that might help them bounce back post-COVID.

1. Follow all COVID guidelines 

Of course, the first priority is to take all the necessary steps and follow all of the appropriate guidelines for properly sanitizing and socially distancing your facility. 

You’ll want to check the CDC for complete guidelines when it comes to cleanliness, and when it comes to food safety, all the old rules and precautions of the FDA’s “food code” still apply. The new guidelines reiterate things like discarding out-of-date food items, the implementation of sneeze guards, etc. OneDine is also regularly updating information on state regulations regarding COVID

The National Restaurant Association has released a detailed report offering guidance for restaurants as they work toward getting back to business. 

According to the Association, their report includes “recommendations concerning cleaning and sanitation, personal hygiene, social distancing, and health monitoring to reassure the public that social gathering for a meal is, again, a safe activity.” They also reiterate that their report is intended to complement the official guidelines put in place by your state and local authorities.

2. Implement contactless technology wherever possible

The restaurant industry, in general, has been strenuously coaxed by the quarantine into embracing a variety of technologies that they otherwise might have waited to implement. 

Solutions like OneDine’s are helping improve convenience for customers while also keeping service as contactless as possible—an important consideration in this COVID and post-COVID world. OneDine’s solutions offer easy initial setup and data-driven insights to make your operations more efficient and your service more personalized as well as contact-free, all with no app required.

These new POS solutions allow guests to easily browse the menu, order and pay right from their table or from the terminal gate on their mobile device without having to wait for a server or drag their carry-ons to the restaurant. 

Guests can also experience safe, contactless payment with a variety of options, including SMS messages with a link to an online payment portal, a QR code or sensor that can be scanned/tapped at their table in order to pay, and ordering online via a custom mobile browsing/ordering website with contactless payment options at checkout or upon meal delivery.

3. Embrace mobile technology

While mobile-friendly solutions and table screens and scanners are certainly making the ordering and delivery of airport food more convenient, airports like Reagan National and Denver International have taken the next step of providing iPads at restaurant tables on which diners can check out the menu, order food and drinks, and satisfy their other touchscreen addictions. 

Newark’s Liberty International Airport has even gone so far as to place over 6000 iPads in 60 restaurants and gate areas to ease the monotony of waiting to board and make it easier to find something to eat.

According to a recent study by an airline industry technology company, in fact, 50-75% of airports planned to use or develop mobile technology to maximize revenue and improve travelers’ experiences in 2020. It’s a trend toward convenience and contactless service that can only increase the snack and meal consumption of post-COVID travelers.

4. Don’t neglect back-of-house

Technology can also transform back-of-house efficiency at airport restaurants, with such innovations as technology to reduce the cooking time of burgers, or even kitchen robots tasked with the more repetitive cooking tasks, like stirring, sauteing, or even flipping those burgers. 

Time is a highly valuable commodity when it comes to air travel, and these and other technologies help to make the most of it by decreasing wait times and eliminating the need to traipse your way to the other side of the airport and then rush back to your gate after gulping down your meal.

In the whirlwind of 2020, the only real constant changes, and those who remain open to new and unique solutions are the ones who will be best positioned to weather the storm and come out stronger on the other side.