Hospitality Matters: Technology in F&B

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In today’s dynamic world, technology touches every facet of our existence deeming our lives meaningless without it. Technology is now making more impact than ever by making advances in not only our own personal lives but by creating huge shifts in industries and economies.

Our restaurant industry for example, is no stranger to these shifts. Between social media, online reservations, mobile menu devices, and new payment methods, technology has infiltrated our industry like never before. On a weekly basis, we are inundated with meeting requests from technology providers interested in improving the way we do our business. Although this offers many exciting possibilities, it also creates significant challenges! In this issue of Hospitality Matters, I discuss some of the major emerging technologies in the F&B space and the positive influences as well as the challenges they pose. First off, let’s say…

Bye Bye Traditional Marketing

And hello digital marketing. It all begins with first reaching the consumer thanks to the prevalence of social networking sites. I mentioned in my previous article on the Top 10 industry Trends of 2017 that relationships between restaurants and consumers have become more complicated. They’re now like marriages – demand long-term commitment, are difficult to please and require a lot of content management and all this is thanks to technology! Through the digital universe today, Restaurateurs now need to leverage the countless technological interfaces to effectively reach the customer, lure them into the restaurant, ensure to follow up with them when they leave and repeat the entire process countless times over.

This can be done through various technological avenues that have now been created to target a niche demographic. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Emails, Foursquare, Yelp, TripAdvisor – are all just the tip of the iceberg. The phenomena has become so influential that they led to what’s being called the ‘Social Media Boom’ where these platforms are becoming actual industries on their own requiring businesses and skilled resources to monetarily invest in and manage the many platforms that currently exist out there.

Apart from restaurants having to deal with the pressure of leveraging technologies to run their businesses, F&B industry executives now need to also be mindful of how their products will please the social platforms of their customers as well as their customers themselves. Confused? Let me explain. We live in a snap before eat generation meaning that restaurants now need to cater food not only for the taste buds but also for the eyes. Chefs and restaurateurs need to ensure that their food and their restaurant space is ‘instagrammable’ so as to feed the social media pages of their customers just as well as their palettes!

All Just a Click Away

Technology is now serving up the future of F&B through online reservations and table management. Consumers no longer want to hold the line for hours to make a reservation at their desired restaurant so technological advances like online reservation systems allow for them to make quick reservations and cancellations without having to deal with a third person. Guests today want a smooth, simple and mobile-friendly journey. The prevalence of online reservation systems not only provide guests with real-time booking options without the hassle but also allows staff members to efficiently manage table bookings through a simple click of a button.

Make it pretty-simple

Paper based menus are now becoming a thing of the past. The latest trend of pictured-automated menus on iPads and Tablets are now making the ordering process quicker and more engaging. Today’s guests, who are now creatures of sight are loving the fact that they can see what their dish looks like before they commit to making an order. Automated ordering systems replaces the hassle of creating and handing out tangible menus as well as allows staff members to focus on properly hosting their guests to a lovely experience instead of running from table to table to take orders.

The use of mobile devices is not limited to the ordering side of the process. These systems can now be used to track inventory, track consumer preferences, their spending and pretty much works as a summary of everything that makes it from the kitchen to the table and into the payment system which brings us to the conversation about…

Data Data Data!

Technology’s intuitive nature is only growing. It is fast becoming a tool that’s not only allowing restaurants to run their business more effectively and efficiently but it’s also allowing customers to find restaurants, decide where to eat and then rate them for the rest of their peers. All this is crucial data for businesses. Restaurateurs today are increasingly recognising the value of using data and analytics to look into their consumers minds and adjust their product management, brand image and pricing accordingly. Big data collected through various technological platforms today allow for businesses to understand the trends occurring within their organisation as well as externally to understand exactly what’s making their customer tick and how to capitalise on these insights. It also allows restaurants to react faster to trends in consumer spending patterns in their restaurants. I believe future investments in technology and analytics by restaurants will become a critical success factor. We are not far from a time in which we will have the required technology tools and revenue managers who will diligently track and measure our yield per table or seat and identify ways in which we can increase our table turnovers just as hotels have been doing successfully with their rooms for years.

Although many restaurant groups are quickly embracing upcoming technological influences, many traditional business owners are having a difficult time picking up on these trends. Even if they are, by the time they grasp one, another three types of tech innovations have sprung up. This poses a huge challenge for many of us as there are so many options to choose from and we don’t know which is the right one. Also, we have huge challenges in terms of technology obsolescence. Investing in a new technology without knowing its lifeline and what new ones may emerge around the corner creates a business risk. Many of these emerging technologies, offering promises of increased operational efficiencies are also led by startups where we are not privy to their funding or financial stability and we could easily be investing in business that may not not be around in the future. Furthermore, with so many technology platforms independently operating from one another, we are faced with challenges in terms of how they speak to one another and how that data can be shared across seamlessly. I dream of the day when we will be able to invest in the best breed of technology platforms and they are seamlessly integrated in all functions of our business, offering us data analytics that will give us a competitive edge in how we run our business.

Whether we like it or not, technology has – in a very short period of time – convinced us of it’s capability of transforming our hospitality industry, our lives and our world as we know it. Although it is a double edged sword, with its fair share of liabilities, our industry must learn to embrace and accept the wave of change that it brings. The wave is coming, it is now up to us to surf or sink.