As we emerge from a global pandemic, many businesses and restaurants are faced with the issue of “what I can do now to secure my business?”’ We know that a number of those in the food industry still face the issue of putting themselves in danger of castrating Covid, and many business owners wondering how to cut costs but still make a profit with increasing demand from customers. So, let us look back to an event that has similarities to issues restaurant face now, the Spanish Flu. After the epidemic, many restaurants and businesses were facing similar issues of social distancing and adjusting to customer needs, so they look to a new model that limited contact between customer and server through constructing automats.
Automats were designed to store hot and cold food that has been prepared in advance for customers to insert their money into a machine to retrieve the meal that is inside. There were some difficulties of gaining traction from the masses to feel comfortable as well as creating the staff to prepare the meals. Much of the criticism from that time was that these dishes would be left in the compartment for hours, which would increase the supply cost of ingredients and employees’ time.
With established food service on consumer’s phone, this application can be designed where customer can order food and pick up without having to interact with an employee. We see this type of automation with Amazon’s lockers that require customers to show a QR code to access their cubby. This type of model would benefit employee safety, especially at 24-hour establishments. With contactless purchasing employees would avoid the danger that does follow working during the night shift and give them more time to focus on the store. This would also help restaurants that were affected by the time restriction that was placed during the height of the pandemic. Since many places were restricted from COVID these automats would avoid that restriction since it would avoid employees from interacting with customers and allowing products to be sold to customers.
Many of these places phased out in the early 2000s but have emerged again in Jersey City and NYC as full functioning restaurants. With the assistance of phone applications and the customer need for instantaneous food services, the automat model may be the start of contactless food service.