2020 was a transformational year for hospitality businesses that were forced to battle with the Coronavirus pandemic any way they could just to stay alive. But it was also transformational in terms of the adoption of technology, with some commentators suggesting that in the nine months between March and December last year the hospitality sector made the same technological advances as might have previously taken five years.
For this year's online technology conference Hostech, BigHospitality and MCA have created four in-depth guides designed to help you navigate the latest technology for both front and back of house operations.
For years hospitality has wrangled with the notion of mobile order and pay, with many businesses fearing that the technology went against the spirit of hospitality and the more personal human touch. If the pandemic has shown anything it is that, when used properly, this is most certainly not the case. Moreover, now operators have made this realisation the door has been opened for much more costumer-facing tech to come to the fore in the future.
Last year saw the resurgence of the QR code, something which had hitherto seemed to be on the wane, helping customer avoid unnecessary staff contact for fear on contracting the virus. Technology such as this will continue to be crucial, in the short term at least, as people will want to limit human contact where possible until the virus has completely disappeared.
Data from Lumina Intelligence’s new report The Role of Technology in Hospitality, for example, shows that 55% of restaurant goers either agree or strongly agree that they feel more confident going to a restaurant that has implemented technologies such as apps and QR codes to limit the contact needed to have with menus and staff.
There are also numerous other benefits of such technology for operators beyond ensuring customer safety and satisfaction, including increased revenue, lower wastage and better efficiencies. These are looked at in greater detail in our Hostech Essential Guide to Order & Pay Solutions. Within this guide we also look to what the future might hold for order and payment technology, in both the casual dining and QSR sectors, including with self-service kiosk and drive-thrus, and its potential in the wider eating out sector.
Back of house technology
While customer-facing technology has stolen much of the limelight in the past 12 months, its true effectiveness comes only through proper integration with back of house systems, enabling businesses to increase efficiencies, speed up service and reduce errors as well as unlock the true potential of any new revenue streams.
The benefits of back of house technology has not gone unnoticed by the restaurant sector. According to Lumina Intelligence research, more than half (54%) of restaurant operators it surveyed either already had introduced or are planning to introduce new back of house systems into their business since the pandemic began, with 40% saying they had already introduced or are planning to introduce an ecommerce function into their business since the onset of the pandemic.
Like certain customer-facing technology, the use of back of house tech in the restaurant sector is nothing new. Restaurant groups, in particular the larger ones, have been using aspects such as kitchen management systems, which increase communication between back and front of house staff and help speed up dish delivery and increase staff efficiencies, for a number of years. However, the pandemic has highlighted further the need for such systems as restaurants have had to increasingly juggle preparing food for sale for customers both on and off the premises as well as manage with reduced staff members and rotas that could change dramatically at a moment’s notice.
Beyond this, a key and increasingly important role of back of house technology has been the analysis of data collected by customer-facing tech so that it can be used to gain a competitive advantage. Integration between order and pay solutions, EPoS systems, stock control and ordering and marketing systems is giving businesses a much clearer picture of where their strengths and weaknesses lie, what they are selling (and what they aren’t) and who’s buying it, enabling them to make more informed business decisions. With the sector likely to be stretched once lockdown is lifted, such decisions could be the difference between success and failure.
The Hostech Essential Guide to back of House Technology reveals how some of the latest back of house technology is already helping businesses during these tough times as well as about the developments set to change how restaurants will operate in the future.
Delivery and click & collect
Another result of the Coronavirus pandemic has been the growth in delivery and click & collect, with eating out brands having had little choice – either get on board or fall out of contention in the market.
The space remains unpredictable and fast evolving, competition as strong among the aggregators as it is among the eating out brands that populate their platforms, but restaurants that have embraced it, and proactively evolved their operations for a digital future, are in a much stronger position for it.
The Hostech Essential Guide to Delivery and Click & Collect Technology explores the dynamics of delivery, from the finances of the providers, to the attitudes of consumers. It also looks at the technology behind these models, from the Kitchen Display Systems (KDS) to integration partners, who organise orders for a multi-brand, multi-aggregator operators.
It also looks at the growth of click & collect, which sits somewhere between delivery and order, which many food to go operators have invested in during lockdown, betting on a future where people return to city centres and choose the convenience of a web app, over than the tedium of standing in a queue.
In times of the Coronavirus pandemic, thoughts of marketing and promotion might well have been pushed to the back of restaurant operators’ minds as they focused instead on survival and looking after their teams. Yet with the lifting of lockdown for hospitality slated for May and with restaurants across the country all set to reopen at a similar time, ensuring that customers pay you a visit when allowed to.
This doesn’t mean embarking on expensive marketing programmes, but instead enticing existing loyal customers back into businesses with more targeted incentives and a more personalised offer – and this is where technology can play a part. Through digitisation operators have access to lots of valuable customer data that, importantly, they are able to act upon in order to come out of this pandemic with a fighting chance of survival.
The Hostech Essential Guide to Customer Marketing Technology shows how technology is helping businesses to create much more personalised experiences for their customers – whether it be with bespoke menus, automatically rewarding loyalty or acting on their feedback – as well as how the data that is willingly being handed over by customers can be used for much more effective marketing campaigns and help shape how a business might operate at different times of the day or week.
It also looks closely at reputation management, which is set to play an increasingly important role in hospitality as the use of review sites such as TripAdvisor and social media continues to rise. When restaurants and pubs do reopen there is little doubt that consumers will return to those places they trust. And not just in terms of great food and service but also keeping them safe.
Click on the links below to view the guides:
Hostech Essential Guide to Order & Pay Solutions
Hostech Essential Guide to back of House Technology
Hostech Essential Guide to Delivery and Click & Collect Technology
Hostech Essential Guide to Customer Marketing Technology