Technology

Contactless Ordering: The Ultimate Guide for Modern Restaurants

During and after the pandemic, safety and guest comfort will be top priorities for restaurants. That’s why contactless dining is here to stay—here’s what restaurants need to know.

Today’s restaurant guests are more safety conscious than ever before.

As dining rooms reopen and some guests venture back into them, they’re looking for restaurants that embrace pandemic safety with tools like contactless ordering and payment.

As restaurants navigate reopening during and after the pandemic, keeping both their guests and their staff safe and comfortable is a top priority. One way to achieve that is with contactless dining. In fact, one study showed that 82 percent of customers would feel safer dining at restaurants if contactless payment was available, and 81 percent said they’d feel safer with contactless ordering.

If contactless dining is a priority for your restaurant, you may be wondering where to start, and how to be successful offering guests a fully contactless, dine-in experience. This guide will explain contactless dining in more detail, and introduce some of the technology tools that will help restaurants succeed in going contactless.

What Is Contactless Dining?

Contactless dining is just what it sounds like: A restaurant experience that reduces time guests spend in close contact with restaurant staff and other guests.

Restaurants are using technology tools to allow guests to view menus, place their orders, and pay, all from their table. There’s less face-to-face time with strangers and no paper menus or receipts passing between hands.

This concept might seem a little bit counterintuitive. It flips traditional restaurant experiences, which are intimate and social, on their heads. 

But in the pandemic age, with safety at the front of both guests’ and restaurant staff’s minds, contactless ordering, menus and payment are only gaining in popularity. Guests may even choose contactless restaurants over traditional experiences—one recent survey showed that 77 percent of consumers will think about whether in-person contact is needed when they consider visiting businesses moving forward.

What Does a Contactless Dining Experience Look Like?

Exactly how a contactless dining experience will look varies from one restaurant to the next. The way a fast-casual establishment implements contactless dining technology will likely look different from the way a more elegant, full-service restaurant does.

But here’s an example of some of the steps and tools a guest might encounter at a contactless restaurant:

  • A virtual waiting list that they can join from their phone, rather than speaking to a host.
  • A scannable QR code at the table that takes them to an interactive, online menu.
  • Contactless ordering from the restaurant’s website, which they can access from their own devices.
  • Pay-at-the-table technology that allows them to split the bill and pay using their debit or credit card or a digital wallet like Apple Pay.

Even before the pandemic, some contactless dining tools were already becoming popular, like self-service kiosks or tablets at tables that allow guests to view the menu, place their orders, and even play games while they wait for their food to arrive. But today, we see contactless technology shifting toward tools that allow guests to use their own devices, which limits shared touchpoints between guests.

Benefits of Contactless Dining

The pandemic has shaped and accelerated the contactless dining trend. The CDC warns that COVID-19 spreads most easily when people are within 6 feet of one another, and that in addition to reducing capacity and striving to maintain social distancing, restaurants should try to eliminate shared surfaces guests may touch, like physical menus and condiment bottles.

Contactless dining allows restaurants to more closely follow the CDC’s recommendations, which will help keep guests and staff safe. It can also help guests feel more comfortable.

But there are additional benefits to contactless dining that extend into business operations and impact restaurant margins. 

Better Order Accuracy

When guests can make, review, and then send their own orders, it eliminates the opportunity for things to be misheard or miscommunicated between guests, servers, and the kitchen. This means more accurate orders, which saves the kitchen time and reduces waste—not to mention makes for a better guest experience.

Bigger Check Sizes

Multiple studies and reports have shown that guests tend to spend more when they place orders without having to do so face-to-face with a server. Taco Bell found that orders placed on its digital app were 20 percent larger than those taken by human cashiers. Chili’s saw an increase in dessert orders when it installed self-service tablets. And Cinemark said per-person concession spending increased for 32 straight quarters after it installed self-service kiosks.

Experts think this is because guests are more likely to order without inhibition when they don’t feel like there’s someone there to “judge” their order, even if that judgement is just perceived. Regardless of the reason, though, contactless ordering could be a big revenue booster for restaurants.

Faster Table Turnover

Contactless dining gives guests more control over their entire experience, which means they can order and pay when they’re ready, without waiting for a server to come to their table. This cuts down on downtime, and results in faster table turnover—a great benefit for restaurants operating at reduced capacity due to pandemic rules.

Reduced Staffing Costs

When servers need to visit tables to greet guests, take their orders, drop off their food, check in, deliver their check, and bring back their receipt, it means they spend a lot of time just moving around the restaurant floor.

But if guests can do most of those things on their own and servers only need to go to the table once, to drop off orders, it’s possible to deliver the same level of customer service with fewer front-of-house staff. This means lower staffing costs for restaurants.

Contactless Ordering, Menus, Payment, and More: 5 Tools Contactless Restaurants Need

The first step for any restaurant that wants to offer a seamless, contactless experience is getting the right tools.

Here’s what you’ll need to bring contactless dining to your restaurant:

A Digital Menu

First things first: Your menu has to be online where guests can easily access it from their mobile device—and that doesn’t mean just putting a PDF version of your menu on your website. 

While a PDF menu will technically get the job done, guests want more than that—they want a dine-in experience that is seamless and engaging. That means a mobile-optimized menu that’s easy to read, looks great, and allows for personalization like order customization and dish add-ons in an easy-to-digest way.

A Way to Access Digital Information from the Table

Once you have a high-quality digital menu ready for guests to view, they need a way to find it. Some contactless restaurants have done this by providing guests with in-house hardware—for example, iPads at the table that come with the menu preloaded. 

But in a post-pandemic world, guests are more hesitant to touch a device that’s been handled by who-knows-how-many staff members and other diners. Instead, restaurants are turning to tools like scannable QR codes that guests can use to access information—like menus—on their own devices.

Contactless Ordering

Some of the biggest benefits of contactless dining include guests’ ability to customize dishes and place multiple orders throughout the duration of their visit. That means you need a way for them to place an order right from their table.

This is where things start to get complicated for restaurants that want to offer contactless dining, but don’t want to cobble together a stack of digital tools. There are many platforms out there that can help you set up contactless ordering for your dine-in guests, but you need a platform that can deliver an entire contactless experience without countless add-ons or extra costs. More on that in a minute.

Contactless Payment

When guests have finished with their meal, they need a way to pay at the table that doesn’t involve handing a debit or credit card to a server and getting back a physical receipt. With more and more guests adopting technologies like Apple Pay and tap-to-pay chip cards, this is becoming easier and easier to offer.

Data Collection and Marketing Technology

And finally, restaurants should take advantage of all the data that these digital tools can help them collect—for example, contact information and which dishes guests ordered and enjoyed. With the right marketing tools, this data can be used to create personalized offers that entice guests to make a return visit, turning them from first-time guests into regulars.

A Seamless Contactless Dining Experience All in 1 Platform? That’s Popmenu

So, to create a seamless contactless dining experience in your restaurant, you need those five tools.

Or do you?

What if, instead, you could get just one tool that offers everything you need for contactless dine-in—and more?

That tool is Popmenu.

Popmenu is the complete digital toolkit that’s made for modern restaurants. It combines website design and maintenance, interactive online menus, online ordering and delivery, marketing tools, and contactless dining all into one easy-to-use platform.

With Popmenu, you get everything you need for contactless dining in one place.


At Popmenu restaurants, guests can scan a QR code to view a dynamic, interactive online menu that highlights featured dishes and keeps likes and reviews on individual dishes from other guests right on the menu. They can then start a tab, place their order, add to their order, and pay when finished—all with Popmenu’s contactless technology.  Then, within 48 hours, Popmenu’s automated remarketing feature sends them a smart message that encourages menu engagement (i.e., leave a review and a ‘pop’ (like)) or provides an offer encouraging the guest to make a repeat visit.

At Popmenu, we stay on top of industry trends, and we're constantly listening and learning from our restaurant owners to build the products and features that restaurants really need. Today, that’s contactless dining. But you can rest assured that whatever the next big restaurant challenge may be, Popmenu is your partner in finding the solution. 

Ready to see how Popmenu gives restaurants all the digital tools they need to succeed? Schedule a demo today or learn more about our contactless dining.