When most of us hear “my fellow South Africans”, our hearts stop for a variety of reasons.
To some, it’s fear of a ban on beer and good times. To others it’s the lack of being able to practice their religion or attend mass gatherings. Brides have cried, fitness freaks have lost their gains, party animals have been tamed and everyone across the country has had their share of reasons to hate the word “lockdown”.
However, there are thousands out there for whom lockdown fatigue is far less surface level, wherein even the term “family meeting” is enough to trigger PTSD, as its repercussions are often the difference between having an income and none at all. Many of us are unaware of their struggles because we’ve been consigned to a long, mutually beneficial relationship with Mr D and Uber Eats; while the rest of us keep them in our thoughts but are often powerless to help (after all, how many cheeseburgers can one feasibly order?). It’s been a tumultuous few months for all involved in the food and hospitality industry - a journey set to continue after the latest regulations imposed. But how, if at all, can technology contribute to a solution, and where do we see ourselves making an impact in the lives of those who need us most?
But let’s start at the beginning: what has it been like to be a restaurateur during the first pandemic of our lifetimes?
Well, first and foremost, most industries have had to adapt in some capacity – but perhaps none more so than restaurants, wherein remote working isn’t an option. Of course, the first few months of ‘hard’ level 5 shutdowns impacted everyone, but many restaurant insiders have noted that an unintended benefit of being closed for a few weeks was an increase in demand. Problem is, however, that many of them were forced to either forego fresh stock entirely or open up using goods already stored in their freezers. This resulted in a tumultuous resumption period, as aside from re-finding their footing, many were dealing with an influx of customer complaints over poor food quality and lengthy waiting times.
This was compounded tenfold by the fact that sit-down eateries were forced to negate a large chunk of their business and deal solely via delivery-based platforms. To their credit, some restaurants did manage to improvise and adapt with the introduction of “roadhouse” themed concepts, but these presented limitations on staff, tips and the use of their full workforce. Not only were many forced to either retrench or furlough, but the costs involved in adapting their working policies were immense, requiring the purchasing of new equipment, resources and PPE for those remaining staff members.
However, as regulations eased, life began to somewhat normalise, and many in the industry were able to operate almost normally - albeit with the addition of standard Covid-19 protocols. These included basic measures such as sanitisation stations upon entry, limitations on the number of guests allowed, ‘no mask, no entry’ and socially distanced spacing between tables. Some, but not all, even incorporated temperature controls and adjusted their spaces to accommodate less diners over a wider floor space – in doing so sacrificing turnover for safety.
Despite being open, many establishments still had to contend with strict, unyielding protocol which had a knock-on effect on other areas of their business. The alcohol ban, for example, which only ended in June despite eateries being allowed to trade some months prior was (and still is) in a constant state of flux. The ban was actually removed and then reinstated two weeks later, meaning bars, taverns and diners which gained a high percentage of income from their alcohol were forced to trade without one of their most valuable resources. Similarly, Shisha lounges, who gain a large amount of traffic from smokers, were also impacted by the country-wide tobacco ban, which was only removed in late June.
However, most eateries persisted and managed to stabilise as the country did – except this was a temporary respite. What would have ordinarily been a booming festive season, wherein lounges and previously ‘vibey’ eateries thrived, instead saw a spur of the moment reinstated curfew and reimplemented booze ban.
This state of flux continues until today, meaning instability is the name of the game as far as eateries are concerned.
All-in-all, it’s been a rollercoaster few months for all industries, but the restaurants and hospitality have probably been hit the worst. Factor in intermittent load shedding, government mandated closure upon any positive Covid-19 case, the loss of many unique selling points in multiple franchises (e.g. the “24” in Andiccio24 becoming redundant when the chain is forced to close at 8) and, of course, the fact that staff are deprived of their tips or livelihood, and you can’t help but shed a tear for those in a previously thriving, unmoderated industry – often people working hard to achieve a dream and make an honest living.
So what, if anything, can technology do for the industry? How can it help ease the burden, even a tiny bit?
Well, we may not be able to negate the risk of human interaction during the pandemic, but we have built an app to minimise it by making tracing, monitoring and safeguarding that much easier.
Say hello to Patron by Braintree, which incorporates the use of QR codes to effectively (and automatically) read, record and monitor the details of every patron (see what we did there?) who enters your establishment.
The app eliminates the need for clipboards or manual Data capturing, instead allowing anyone inside your place of business to clearly communicate their Covid-19 status. Accessible from the iOS App Store, Android Play Store or in a web browser on your desktop, here’s what you can expect:
- Automated Data capturing via code scanning.
- Patron risk declaration and proactive monitoring.
- Patron assessment, which tracks vaccination status, number of guests in a group or table number and offers room for additional unique customisation.
- Workforce monitoring and symptom checking.
- Reporting dashboards for tracking and assessing, which can be forwarded to the necessary governmental organisations.
The sad reality is that no app is going to mitigate the hard impacts of our various lockdown regulations. But, as Work from Home has taught us, sometimes technology can make life a bit more manageable, and surprise you in ways you never saw coming. Our Patron app can’t promise more sales, but it can promise that your establishment will be safe, in accordance with regulations and less of a health risk to customers and staff alike.
It’s the first step in giving you and your patrons (we did it again) total peace of mind, ensuring that even though we’re all (locked) down, we’re definitely not knocked out.