The consumer experience for food services and grocery retailers has changed dramatically. What was once a sensory activity of browsing and consuming has become all about retailer trust, contactless customer convenience, and store hygiene. Online ordering has skyrocketed, but e-commerce alone is not enough to satisfy health and safety requirements in today’s market. 


Enter the concept of contact-lite or contactless grocery and food services. From curbside grocery pickup to digital menus and grab-and-go meals, food retailers are finding new and innovative ways, through automation and apps, to accommodate the consumer demand for a contact-free experience. 


In the foodservice and grocery industry, “contactless” has become the word du jour. The concept is relatively new, so the meaning is still evolving. However, what contactless service provides is clear: a way for consumers to have a safe, efficient, and most importantly, an enjoyable experience with food and grocery services. 


Learn what savvy foodservice and grocery businesses are doing to provide the best contactless or contact-lite shopping and dining experiences for their customers. 


The QR Code Revival 

The QR code technology first burst on the scene about a decade ago but failed to really take off as expected in North America. The main reason for the early flop was that all mobile devices would have needed to be equipped with a universal third-party QR code reader to work. That obstacle has largely disappeared since cameras on most newer mobile devices can read QR codes. 


Restaurants have jumped on the QR code bandwagon to provide contactless service, including digital menus and contactless payment options, for their patrons. 


Since hand-held menus are traditionally passed between customers during service, they are a breeding ground for germs. Now, when a customer scans a QR code, the restaurant’s digital menu pops up on his or her personal device. In addition to being more cost effective than printed menus, digital menus allow restauranteurs to easily make changes to items, add promotions, and act as additional advertising. 


Contactless & Contact-Lite Payment Options

The process of paying for a meal or groceries is one of the biggest bottlenecks in food retail. Credit card tap technology allows for quick, contactless payment, but the spend limits in the past restricted the amount people could purchase. In response to demand, most food retailers now are able to provide increased limits of up to $250 per transaction and require no signature, ever. 


Excellence Industries The Rise of Contactless or Contact-Lite Grocery & Food Service Options



Other digital payment methods such as ApplePay and Google Pay are being accepted by more and more foodservice and grocery retailers as a preferred – and more hygienic – alternative to tap. Technology publisher Digital Trends expects the trend to continue for years to come. 


Apps and Kiosks for Contactless Service 

While sit-down restaurants have experienced some challenges from the demand for contactless service, quick-service restaurants (QSRs) have flourished — especially those that invested in self-serve kiosks, apps, and automation to allow contactless or contact-lite interaction with others. 


Kiosks at QSRs are not new; however, the ways in which they are helping contactless services are. For example, Coca-Cola created a contactless extension to its self-serve beverage machines. Patrons can scan a QR code connected to the self-serve machine and are able to select their drinks of choice from their devices safely and conveniently. 


Curbside Pickup and Contactless Drive-Thru Grocery Services

The drive-thru has long been the domain of quick-serve restaurants. In recent years, though, drive-thrus have expanded to include other services such as banks and liquor stores — and now, pop-up grocery pickup locations. In a quick pivot, some businesses are turning unused space into drive-thru food pickup locations to provide their customers with contactless service options. 


FED, a nutrition-based meal club and grocery delivery service, for example, turned an empty shipping container into a drive-thru grocery pickup location. The physical location also allows customers to shop on demand, which is especially helpful for those who don’t have access to a device or are uncomfortable ordering online. 


Of course, grocery store curbside pickup is a huge draw for customers, and most retailers have implemented some form of the option. Forward-thinking retailers like Walmart are even experimenting with robots as grocery pickers to take the contactless experience to the next level. Consumers can also opt to pick up their ordered items from a locker outside the store to minimize human interaction. 


As recently as February 2019, only about 3% of grocery spending was online, but by mid-March, that rate had increased by 150%. Consumers’ accelerated demand for hygienic and convenient food service experiences need not be feared by retailers. In this era of technology, retailers can still thrive, and patrons can have their cake and contactlessly eat it too. 


With food and grocery retailers’ increased need to provide an efficient contactless experience, flexible and affordable cooling solutions are needed now more than ever. To learn more about how our commercial refrigeration solutions can help your foodservice business, contact us today!