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Smart thinking: How attitudes to mobile tech are changing

By Joe Lutrario

- Last updated on GMT

Smart thinking How attitudes to mobile tech are changing

Related tags: Technology

Mobile technology is fast moving and complex, but with the right partner restaurants can use it to boost spend, manage operational pain points and generate crucial data.

Restaurant technology has changed rapidly over the past decade, with one of the largest shifts being driven by the widespread adoption of mobile technologies which are now used for everything from point of sale to inventory management to customer loyalty programs.

Mobile in hospitality is defined as technology accessed from small devices, including both customer’s smart phones and the small, internet-enabled devices used by staff.

Oracle has measured the impact this rapid evolution has had on the sector with its recent survey of 279 leading hospitality companies. Going Mobile: A Benchmark of Mobility Maturity in the Restaurant Industry​ provides an insight into how restaurants are using mobile technology, their relationship to innovation in mobile and the industry’s readiness to continue to embrace mobile while facing the constant threat of disruption.

The results are enlightening, with many restaurateurs driven by anxiety over the future. “They understand that they need to continue to invest in mobile, but many aren’t confident in their ability to meet the needs of their customers today while preparing for tomorrow,” says Oracle Mark Atkins, director of sales, Oracle food and beverage. “In a world of ever-increasing customer expectations, increased mobile abilities offer immediate guest benefits: seamless payments, easy ordering and delivery, faster service, and visibility to the process every step of the way.”

Oracle believes mobile allows restaurant professionals to reach new customers, access new options for delivery, and that it offers low pressure opportunities for upselling. In addition, mobile inventory management reduces cost and improves efficiency. Mobile makes service faster and keeps people happy—driving repeat business and customer loyalty, the report claims.

“Food and beverage professionals are clearly excited about these benefits, but that excitement comes with a side order of anxiety,” says Oracle Mark Atkins, director of sales, Oracle food and beverage. “Many feel weighed down by the threat of disruption from more customer-centric competitors and are afraid they aren’t investing enough to keep up. A question emerges: will we be left behind?”

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The fear of disruption

Oracle asked restaurant owners and other F&B professionals to rate their strategy against twenty-two factors of mobile maturity, measuring their impact across both their current ability to deliver outstanding guest experiences and their preparedness for the future.

Mapping responses in this fashion reveals an industry that is struggling to balance their current mobile requirements with the need to plan for the future. In fact, only 35% were confident in both their ability to prepare for a mobile tomorrow while meeting the demands of their customers today, leaving 65% of their peers facing an uncertain future.

Specifically, people expressed fear of being outpaced by more agile competitors, or simply by the fast pace of change in the industry. 62% of respondents expressed doubts over their ability to keep up while 18% strongly agreed that they are not investing quickly enough to keep pace with the speed of mobile technology change.

These fears emerged despite sometimes strong scores on organisational readiness questions, which Oracle says indicates that restaurant owners are optimistic that investment in mobile will increase sales while saving them time and money. “They see the benefits and feel intense pressure to invest in the right mobile technology to maintain their competitive edge. They see the benefits and feel intense pressure to invest,” says Oracle Mark Atkins, director of sales, Oracle food and beverage.

Guest-facing mobile applications were also well-regarded by survey respondents, both for their ability to save time and money and for their bolstering effect on customer loyalty. 84% agreed that such apps reduce labour costs and 86% agree that their branded mobile apps improve speed of service. Most impressively, 93% agree that their guest-facing mobile app promotes loyalty and drive repeat business.

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Future investment is critical

The study highlighted the need to prepare for a mobile future. In an industry where increased speed of service and ticket averages have been the primary focus for improvement for decades, mobile innovation has been accompanied by an increased focus on improving both guest experience and overall organisational efficiency. On a scale of 1 (least agreement) to 6 (most agreement), respondents are bullish on investing in mobile – both present and future.

In fact, the top-scoring responses dealt with the use of mobile inventory management and using guest-facing mobile applications to promote brand loyalty and drive repeat business. Oracle says this shift may signal a change in approach, where instead of targeting granular improvements in speed of service or ticket averages, food and beverage executives are taking a more holistic view.

These large-scale improvements have the potential to make larger shifts in the bottom line than the point of service efficiency models used in the past, Oracle says. For instance, a total of 96% of respondents either agree or agree strongly that mobile inventory management is driving time and money savings.

Oracle believes that the industry-wide take-up of third-party delivery partners raises a few questions. The risks highlighted by Oracle include shrinking profit margins, shifting customer loyalty and decreased speed of service for consumers who are dining in.

Instead of hyper-focusing on symptoms of inefficiency including speed and declining ticket amounts, the industry has apparently taken a broader perspective, applying mobile innovation to basic problems of supply and demand. How do we increase inventory efficiency? How do we get new customers in the door? How do we serve them more efficiently? How do we keep them coming back?

Integrated mobile inventory management is a key indicator of mobile maturity. Integrating guest service and inventory management on the same device allows food and beverage organisations to streamline processes, integrate front and back of house functions, and increase the ROI of their mobile utilisation, Oracle says.

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Anxiety around disruption

The report reveals industry-wide anxiety around being disrupted by a competitor who has a better grasp on mobile. This fear can be alleviated by allowing customer experience, loyalty, and repeat business to guide mobile initiatives. Oracle believes that mobile should be there to support experience delivery, not the other way around.

Continued partnerships with mobile-first startups can provide exposure to new customers, but food and beverage executives should be aware of the potential risks of shrinking profit margins and shifting customer allegiances, and act accordingly.

“Today, mobile solutions need to be a cornerstone of restaurant operations to improve everything from back-office management to guest encounters,” says Oracle Mark Atkins,director of sales, Oracle food and beverage. “With 40 years of experience providing industry-leading technology, Oracle Food & Beverage is not only pioneering advances on the mobility front but tapping into Oracle’s vast R&D resources to develop innovations in all facets of the business to help operators worldwide grow their businesses.”

Oracle says​ its point-of-sale platform is the premier food and beverage management solution, enabling operators to deliver fixed, portable and mobile point-of-sale technology to enhance guest experience and service. Key features include mobile inventory management, seamless integration with existing systems and support of any operating model. The company says it understands that devices and solutions need to be built to withstand the daily rigors of a hospitality environment. Its hardware, including Oracle MICROS Tablets are durable POS devices engineered to increase efficiency and deliver the best price-to-performance ratio in the business.

Demographics and methodology

Oracle asked 279 restaurant professionals to answer a battery of questions to determine where their organisation rates across 22 fundamental measures of mobile maturity. To interpret the survey results, Oracle plotted responses along two key axes: “Organisational Readiness” (Do you think you have the organisational support, resources, and infrastructure to succeed in the future?) and “Experience Delivery” (Is your current mobile strategy on track to deliver outstanding guest experiences?). Most responses were from full-service restaurants at 45%, with fast casual and quick service representing 24% and 23% of responses, respectively. Theme park, stadium, and other providers rounded out the responses with 8%. 71% of respondents were director level or higher, with 45% answering from companies that generate more than £500m in annual revenue.

Related topics: Trends & Reports

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