Contactless dining becomes trendy amidst epidemic prevention

By Liu Leyi, People’s Daily Overseas Edition
Restaurants, including some well-known Chinese- and Western-style chain restaurants, , have opened contactless diners amidst epidemic prevention and control in places such as Beijing and Shanghai.
As a solution to reduce contagion risks and retain customers, the service, jointly rolled out by restaurants and the China Hospitality Association, has garnered wide attention after its debut.
“Before launching the contactless service, we found that customers were hesitated before they entered our restaurant,” said Zhang Yuming, general manager of E’mei Restaurant, a Sichuan food restaurant in Beijing. Now the QR code placed at the gate of the restaurant enables customers to pay for and take away  food from outside, which reassures them to place orders, Zhang added.
Meituan Cashier, a payment system of China’s service-focused e-commerce giant Meituan Dianping, timely upgraded its food ordering service by enabling customers to place orders on its application and get food without having to enter a dining hall.
The application encourages restaurants to paste QR codes outside their dining halls, so customers can order meals by simply scanning the codes. No human contact is involved in the process.
As a matter of fact, self-service machines have been available at a number of fast food restaurants in China, even before the outbreak of COVID-19.
According to Burger King senior vice president Zhu Fuqiang, the contactless dining will be trendy in the future as more restaurants provide such service. In addition, the service model also caters to the consumption habits of young people.
In the second half of 2019, popular milk tea brand Heytea set up intelligent cabinets for customers or couriers to take orders. During COVID-19, the facilities were adopted for non-contact service and played a role in epidemic prevention and control.
The cabinets can be opened by customers through an app on their smart phones, and are disinfected each hour to ensure food hygiene.
Many of China’s top 100 restaurants have employed robots to serve the customers for the latter’s demand for clean and safe food.

It could deliver 300 to 450 dishes per day, which is twice to three times the efficiency of a manual labor, said Chi Xiaomin, the chief public relations officer of Keenon Robotics Co., Ltd., the developer of the robot.
In addition, the operation of the robots is closely monitored by an operation and maintenance team of Keenon Robotics. Once a malfunction occurs, the staff will contact the restaurant immediately to find the cause of the problem and offer solutions, Chi introduced.
In the post-epidemic era, Chinese customers are particularly concerned about health issues in public places. In this regard, the robotic deliveryservice has not only avoided contagion through contact and transmission through air droplets, but also demonstrated the measures restaurants have taken in protecting public health, earning customers’ trust for the catering industry, said Li Tong, founder of Keenon Robotics.
Contactless dining has not only promoted food safety, but also boosted consumer confidence. Under regular epidemic prevention and control, customers and restaurants are together embracing a new dining trend.

A customer orders food on his mobile phone outside a restaurant in Rugao, a county-level city in Nantong, east China’s Jiangsu province, Feb.7, 2020. Photo by Wu Shujian, People’s Daily Online

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