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The COVID-19 crisis has been a boon for ecommerce, with social distancing measures leading to a major uptick in online sales. Brick-and-mortar businesses have had to adapt quickly, and deliveries and curbside pickup are very much the order of the day.

There is little question the pandemic will leave an indelible mark across the retail landscape. A number of big-name retailers — such as JC Penney — have filed for bankruptcy. Microsoft recently announced it has permanently closed all of its physical retail stores. And restaurants that once relied on diners have had to embrace delivery and pickups.

But as lockdown measures ease and the world returns to some semblance of normalcy, technology is playing a crucial role in enabling people to dine in safely.

Table service

Amazon-backed Deliveroo this week announced a new “table service” option that enables restaurants to accept orders and payments from diners through the Deliveroo mobile app. Moving forward, restaurants that join Deliveroo’s platform will be able to tap its delivery network — with the usual commission fees attached. But the app will now double as a payment system and digital menu for dine-in customers too. Deliveroo is offering this service at 0% commission, presumably in hopes that new signups will be tempted to use its delivery network.

Above: Deliveroo’s new table service option

This is a notable move for Deliveroo, whose food delivery business is built almost entirely on its transport infrastructure. But this latest effort is very much in keeping with the ways other tech companies are adapting to support the “new normal.”

Deliveroo’s new offering builds on a movement that was already underway. McDonald’s was offering table service in some markets through its own app long before COVID-19. And while “fast food” and “table service” might have seemed odd bedfellows, the technology certainly makes sense in today’s world.

Restaurants are leveraging a range of tech options to encourage customers to sit down for a coffee or a nice lunch. QR code menus are surging in popularity, as outlets across France and elsewhere plaster their tables with square stickers diners can scan with their smartphones, bringing the menu directly to their device.

A waiter sticks the QR code in order for customers to download the menu as the terrace is being set up at Les Marronniers Cafe in Paris, France.

Above: A waiter applies a QR code so customers can download the menu at Les Marronniers Cafe in Paris, France.

Image Credit: Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images

On the payment side, PayPal recently rolled out QR code contactless payments in 28 markets, enabling farmers’ markets, cafes, and other establishments to accept payments while minimizing contact.

Completely new platforms are also emerging to help restaurants and diners conduct business from a safe distance. TableDrop, for example, offers a new consumer app that taps a user’s location to automatically load the menu from the venue they are in, though restaurants, bars, and cafes need to sign up for the service in advance.

Though the world is still very much in flux, there is a growing eagerness to get society up and running as soon as possible, but only if it’s safe to do so. Whatever that looks like, it’s clear technology will play a huge role in making it happen.

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