Even despite the pandemic, our appetite for eating out hasn’t diminished. However, some places are still restricted, or some people would rather not sit in a restaurant for the time being. This has led to a huge boom in takeout and curbside dining options.
A recent Gallup poll reveals that during the Covid-19 crisis, more Americans have adopted low-contact services aimed at obtaining essential goods and services. The data shows that food pickup at restaurants has grown by 44%, and curbside pickup at stores by 36%.
This monumental shift in how consumers access resources has led to huge opportunities and new risks. Let’s see what this means for the restaurant industry.
I need a website, fast!
In early 2020, when everything got shut down, there was a massive rush to get online. Brick and mortar only locations began to hemorrhage business since they were invisible to online patrons (keep this concept of invisibility in mind, we’ll return to it later). This meant everybody wanted to establish an online presence with websites, apps, and ordering platforms, and the trend isn’t likely to stop soon. It’s estimated that e-commerce will grow to $4.9 trillion by 2021.
Restaurants were hit particularly hard at the beginning, since in-person business was their bread and butter. Quick thinkers hopped on the delivery and curbside pickup trend early, and it has since exploded like popcorn.
The new normal
These days, everybody is willing to order things online. Many eat-in only places have pivoted to take-out in order to survive. However, in the stampede to get online, many businesses have overlooked website accessibility issues, and this leads to lost opportunities.
Remember when we mentioned invisibility earlier? Well, it’s estimated that in the US nearly 12 million people 40 years and over have vision impairment. If your restaurant website isn’t set up with assistive technology, then perhaps none of these people can order food from you. On the other hand, if you implement some basic screen reading code into your site, they can easily navigate and place their dinner order.
The legal flip side
Besides losing a ton of potential business, accessibility has become a legal lightning rod, and for good reason. Imagine if you were visually or physically impaired, and you wanted to order a meal online. If the website isn’t set up properly, you can’t access the menu. This is just like excluding people from your eatery since you have no handicapped access.
In fact, thousands of lawsuits have ruled or settled in favor of plaintiffs due to websites not being accessible to people living with disability. The places that have been sued have ranged from the largest names in every industry to local small businesses.
Web accessibility is no longer an option
This new reality shows us that making your website accessible is not an option anymore. Sure, you can take the risk, but is it worth it? Not only do you stand to lose out on customers, but you also open your business up to significant legal risk. Demand letters typically start at $7,500 and go up from there. Most lawyers advise their clients to pay since courts rule in favor of the plaintiffs nearly 100% of the time.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been almost universally interpreted to include digital content (websites, apps, etc). This means your restaurant website is a “place of public accommodation”, and it’s hard to argue with that fact. If you can’t order online, how can you pick up the food curbside? Even getting a phone number these days depends on digital access.
People with disabilities are protected by law from discrimination so website owners need to make reasonable accommodations for these users.
Accessibility is easy for anyone
The good news is that getting your website up to speed is much easier than it seems. Services, such as Adally’s business solutions, specialize in web accessibility which makes the process fast, affordable, and complete.
Instead of losing out on millions of potential customers and opening yourself up to legal pie on your face, it makes much more sense to be proactive. Be accessible and let them get a great meal from you, hassle free.