Here’s how ordering food at a restaurant may look different after the coronavirus: Panera Bread founder

Starbucks gets a lot of the attention for creating a dependable mobile ordering experience, but it was really Panera Bread founder Ron Shaich that trailblazed a path for the use of technology for ordering fast food (well that and the use of “clean” ingredients).

It was back in 2016 where Shaich as Panera CEO led the introduction of tablets into his restaurants to speed up orders while also developing a highly personalized mobile ordering app. Dubbed Panera 2.0, it proved to be a major sales and efficiency driver for the restaurant chain. Others such as McDonald’s quickly followed.

Shaich ended up selling Panera Bread to food conglomerate JAB Holdings for a cool $7.5 billion in 2017.

Now, Shaich — who is managing partner of Act III Holdings which owns stakes in upstart restaurants such as Cava, Zoe’s Kitchen, Tatte and Life Alive — says ordering food from restaurant chains may be about to evolve in a big way once again. Consider it one of the many byproducts of the coronavirus pandemic, which has shuttered restaurants and caused many industry leaders to develop elaborate plans (cleaning, hiring, etc.) to successfully opening locations sometime soon.

All about contactless

“I think it’s contactless transactions of all forms,” Shaich said about the future of ordering food on Yahoo Finance’s The First Trade. “One prevailing concept that extends across all channels is contactless interaction. I don’t know if you have gone into several large restaurant systems, but you have to sign the screen. I’m not so happy about signing a screen today, let alone putting my credit card in one of their readers. Takeout itself, even for eat in [experiences] will move to contactless interaction.”

(Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for Visa)

A contactless dining experience will be a big change for consumers. The restaurant industry has always prided it self on one-on-one interactions and hands on customer service. But in the post coronavirus world, consumers are very likely to want minimal interaction with restaurant staff. It’s give me my food on the doorstep, and get the hell out of here – as sad as that may be.

Pizza chains Domino’s Pizza, Papa John’s, Pizza Hut and Little Caesars have pioneered contactless delivery so far during the pandemic. Domino’s, for its part, has developed what it calls a “pizza pedestal” to put under a pizza box that gets left outside.

Got to protect that pepperoni.

What is unclear right now is how restaurant chains will adopt contactless transactions inside of their restaurants. It’s one thing to impart aggressive new cleaning procedures into a restaurant. It’s another thing to figure out a way to up sell a customer on extra guac if we are all wearing face masks and being told to stand six feet away from a register.

But we will leave that process reboot to big thinkers in the restaurant industry like Shaich.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-anchor of The First Trade at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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