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Staley Technologies Helps Restaurants Shift Models

4 min read

Restaurants have turned to technology to help them adapt and survive during the pandemic, and Staley Technologies of Little Rock has been right there with them. “It’s been a wild ride,” Andrew Faulkner, Staley CEO, told me this month.

Staley Technologies provides technology services to the hospitality, retail, manufacturing and health care industries, and the pandemic led Arkansas restaurateurs to seek its expertise, particularly in point-of-sale systems. Some of those who called on Staley were Yellow Rocket Concepts — parent company of the Big Orange, Local Lime, Zaza and Heights Taco & Tamale restaurants and Lost Forty Brewing — U.S. Pizza Co., The Pantry and The Pantry Crest, Tacos 4 Life, Brewski’s and Colton’s Steak House.

With the state’s closure of restaurant dining rooms on March 20, table-service restaurants wanting to stay in business had to become quick-service restaurants “literally overnight,” Faulkner said, “which is a complete, opposite shift for them.”

The experience at dine-in, table-service restaurants was all about contact — contact with the host or hostess, the bussers bringing water, the servers, the cashier. “Pre-COVID, that entire experience was judged upon how much contact you had and what the experience was like with the staff on-site,” Faulkner said. Was the hostess pleasant? Did you get seated quickly? Was your food brought to you promptly?

After COVID, the focus turned to minimizing contact or eliminating it. And table-service restaurants, which Faulkner said had tended to be slow adopters of online ordering, looked to Staley. “Immediately, the demand went through the roof for online ordering.”

Many restaurants then realized that their menus weren’t optimized for online ordering. “A lot of restaurants that had a million different choices when you were in the restaurant, they had to find a way very quickly to implement online ordering and essentially shrink their menu,” Faulkner said.

Next decision: How is a restaurant going to handle the pickup of orders? And if it does curbside pickup, will it implement contactless or touchless payments, to limit the exchange of cash or credit cards? That was also something that Staley Technologies could help with.

Contactless payments allow customers to pay with debit or credit cards equipped with radio frequency identification technology by tapping the card near a point-of-sale terminal. Or they can download a payment application to their smartphones that allows them to tap their phones to make payments. QR (“quick response”) codes can also permit customers to pay using their smartphones, and text-to-pay is another alternative.

“I would say primarily the QR code technology has taken hold more than the text-to-pay at this point,” Faulkner said.

Contactless payment is forecast to increase in popularity, with the global contactless payment market expected to post a compound annual growth rate of 11.2% from 2019 to 2025, Market Research Future said in a report released last week.

Faulkner noted a trend that Arkansas Business has reported on, the uptick in business seen by quick-service restaurants that in many cases were already set up to provide drive-through service. “The quick-service folks had to step up their game tremendously because their drive-throughs were absolutely swamped,” he said.

Staley Technologies also worked with restaurants like Larry’s Pizza in Bryant to provide what’s called “line busting” technology, allowing staff to take and transmit orders on handheld internet-enabled devices while customers are waiting in line.

And the company has installed digital drive-through menu boards for Sonic and Burger King restaurants around the country. “And that’s all in response to COVID and speeding up their drive-throughs,” Faulkner said.

“We’ve had this technology for years,” he said. “And it’s been a struggle to get people to do it, up until COVID.” The pandemic has accelerated everything.

The new pandemic-driven business hasn’t meant a surge in revenue for Staley Technologies, but it has helped compensate for the loss in sales stemming from the halt in new restaurants opening, he said.

Faulkner thinks many of these changes are permanent, online ordering and contactless payments in particular, for example.

“And you know, I don’t think anybody at this point thinks that this is the last pandemic that we’re ever going to experience,” he said. “I mean, I hope I’m wrong. But I think everybody at this point knows that things can change now very quickly.”

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