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Vertical Location and Post-Pandemic Restaurant Growth

Restaurants are one of the most visible reminders of the pandemic’s economic toll. Perhaps more than any other industry, restaurants have been forced to adapt on the fly to regulatory mandates and constant changes in customer behavior. Many restaurants haven’t survived. All the rest have been through months of turmoil and disruption.

Some of these necessary pandemic-era adaptations will fade away, but others are likely to have more staying power. In particular, polling and studies indicate that the mass shift to restaurant pick-up service is likely to be a long-term change.

Of course, it’s not just restaurants. Fulfillment options like curbside and in-store pickup were tested and adopted by pretty much every retailer over the past 12 months. According to the National Retail Federation’s Consumer View Winter 2020 study, 83% of households say convenience is more important to their buying decisions than it was 5 years ago. Continued usage of click-and-collect services are expected to stick around, driven primarily by their ease-of-use.

“Just in time” matters more for restaurants

More than any other industry, restaurants need to know exactly when you’re arriving for pick-up service to offer any value. Waiting five minutes for a curbside pickup of toilet paper is merely inconvenient. Waiting five minutes for onion rings results in a noticeable decline in product quality and customer satisfaction.

This is why restaurants are going all in on location technology as we start to emerge from the pandemic. In most cases, precise data about when a customer is likely to arrive can be the difference between a quality experience and lost business. That means calculating their arrival time down to the minute.

In sprawling suburbs and rural areas, standard location technologies usually provide an estimate that is close enough to what restaurants need. Urban areas are a different story.

In built-up downtown areas where multi-story buildings are the norm, today’s 2D location technologies make it very difficult to accurately predict when a restaurant customer will arrive. The issue is that nobody’s measuring altitude. The tenth floor and the ground floor appear as the same place, when in reality they can mean a significant difference in travel time.

The role of vertical location

Thankfully, a solution is at hand. Vertical location – the ability to determine a user’s position within a building – recently became available in urban markets nationwide. The location services used in most restaurant apps are starting to offer this additional data point, dramatically improving the quality and accuracy of time-of-arrival data.

That improved location data will drive significant value in the form of better user experiences, higher LTV, and greater customer loyalty. In short order, vertical location will become a “must have” feature of any location-based restaurant app with an urban audience. (Which is pretty much all of them.)

This new capability is arriving just when restaurants need it most. Many restaurants are looking to maintain the pandemic-era increase in take-out business, even as in person dining roars back. Improving customer experience will be a key component in customer retention, and vertical location offers a dramatic improvement in urban areas where the market is large but competition is fierce.

As we slowly start to return to normal, differentiation will be more important than ever for restaurants of all kinds. We know that convenience is a significant factor in customer decisions, particularly when those decisions are made online. Vertical location offers a measurable improvement in convenience while improving the overall experience. For consumers and restaurants alike, it’s a win-win.

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