David Kelts, Director of Product Development, Mobile Identity, GET Group North America
You can provide a more personalized and healthier restaurant experience with Contactless ID
The COVID Restaurant Problem
In the United States, the National Restaurant Association anticipates the restaurant industry will sustain $240 billion in losses by the end of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Between March and April, it had already lost $80 billion in sales[i]. According to data from Yelp, restaurants and retail were the two business areas hit hardest by the impacts of COVID. In March, the first month of widespread U.S. quarantines and restrictions, restaurants had the highest number of business closures and have continued to experience high closure rates as they struggle to adapt to new and evolving safety guidelines and widespread public health concerns. Running on thin margins and struggling to break even, many restaurants were unable to bounce back from the months of financial loss caused by mandatory shutdowns. By early summer, 23,981 restaurants had closed, and Yelp found 53% of those closures are permanent.[ii]
Restaurants that have recently reopened have to navigate this socially distanced new world. It is not easy to keep employees and customers safe, adhere to shifting government regulations, and maintaining the public’s confidence. Luckily, during summer of 2020, beautiful weather allowed restaurants to offer outdoor dining. This ingenuity resulted in reclaimed parking lots turned into lively and romantic settings to dine. As warm summer temperatures cool off into chill fall nights, patio heaters may no longer suffice. What do we do now?
How can we protect health while returning to what we enjoy – dining out?
Many restauranteurs have invested in contactless solutions[iii], such as digital menu boards or mobile menus accessed via QR codes, to cut down on physical exchanges where germs could potentially be spread. Customers and restaurants are opting for contactless payment – tap cards, phone payments, and QR code-driven restaurant checks.
While many restaurants have worked to minimize the spread of germs via digital menu solutions, there is still concern for contamination when a bartender or waitstaff needs to check a patron’s ID to verify their age. To date, a thorough look at an ID requires handing over a physical credential but now, the prospect of mobile driver’s licenses (mDL) opens the potential for accurate Contactless ID checks.
Contactless ID using Mobile Driver’s License (mDL)
An mDL[iv] used in contactless transactions cannot simply be a photo or mock-up of a license on a phone. Photos are too easily manipulated and may still require that waitstaff physically take hold of or touch the patron’s phone. This would be less efficient than a physical card; less safe from a health standpoint, as statistics show that each square inch of a cell phone may contain a whopping 25,000 germs[v]; and could even increase identity fraud. In contrast, an ISO 18013–5-compliant mDL creates the possibility of trustworthy, official, government-issued mDLs and IDs on a mobile phone. An ISO 18013-5 compliant mDL is an actual ID on the patron’s phone. The government issuer (DMV) e-signs the data and puts it under the control of the mDL holder (the citizen), to be used via electronic transfer. A restaurant employee can verify the DMV’s eSignature via an “over the shoulder” QR scan method or a quick tap on the employee’s mobile device on a payment terminal. The restaurant receives only the data they need without ever touching the ID card, the patron’s mobile device, or having to get within minimum social distance.
Making Contactless More Personal and an Improved Experience
As adoption of mDL technology becomes widespread, it also opens the door for other contactless experiences in restaurants, such as virtual “check-ins”, allowing patrons to announce their arrival via Bluetooth instead of going to a host/hostess. Not only could this help promote increased social distancing, it could also allow for a more customized dining experience. Imagine arriving to a restaurant with a personalized greeting from the server and not having to fumble through your wallet to find your ID because your age was verified prior to sitting down. In a society where 63% of consumers value the experience more than the item purchased[vi], being at the forefront of implementing safer and more personalized practices with mobile ID can help a restaurant differentiate itself from those that are sticking with antiquated practices.