Contact-free shopping and dining are taking off

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Zach Goldstein, CEO of Thanx. 

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Zach Goldstein, CEO of Thanx.

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The coronavirus crisis has forced companies to quickly adjust to conducting business online, spurring an incredible rush to cloud services of all kinds, as this newsletter has covered extensively. The swell of technological transformation isn’t just happening digitally, though: Two recent stories show how brick-and-mortar businesses, too, have been adopting new technologies in-store that make shopping or dining during the pandemic more appealing to patrons. 

For example, Thanx, a San Francisco-based customer engagement company that works with thousands of restaurants, just launched a system where diners can scan a tableside QR code to order their meal and pay. The tech drastically cuts down the amount of interactions that diners need to have with their servers — an appreciated safety precaution during the pandemic — while also making the process more efficient for restaurants. 

“Tableside represents what we believe to be not only the culmination of that digital revolution but also necessary in this COVID world,” Thanx CEO Zach Goldstein told Business Insider’s Kristen Hawley.

Similarly, grocery chain Giant Eagle just launched its first checkout-free convenience store, in Pittsburgh, through a partnership with artificial intelligence startup Grabango. Grabango’s computer vision system tracks the items that a person picks up, allowing shoppers to pay simply by scanning an app as they walk out the door. 

“People always were — and continue to be even more — concerned about waiting in line,” Grabango’s chief business officer, Andy Radlow, told Business Insider’s Keerthi Vendantam. While the two companies had partnered up before the pandemic hit, the platform’s value has only increased as people try to minimize time spent in stores. 

Though the contactless technologies from Thanx and Grabango are both particularly well-suited to this moment in history, both companies say their platforms are the natural evolution of long-time digital trends and, as Thanx CEO Goldetein put it, “will become the new normal well beyond COVID.”

Below are a few other stories that you may have missed from the last two weeks. And as always: If you’re interested in receiving this biweekly newsletter and other updates from our ongoing Innovation Inc. series, please be sure to sign up here.

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