5 TAKEAWAYS | Tech Innovation in Hospitality
Innovation and technology have been key buzz words through Hospitality Unites. Over the past 12months the industry has gone through a technological revolution, embracing mobile ordering and digital tools to not only help them meet new restrictions but also increase efficiencies – and bottom lines- in an increasingly tech savvy world.
The role of technology in hospitality has drastically expanded in recent years, but what does this mean for you? What does innovation really look like in the hospitality sector and what benefits can that provide your business? Hear what was discussed and more in our Hospitality Unites 2021 panel discussion. If you missed the session or would like a recap, check out our 5 takeaways below!
1. Going mobile, how technology is changing hospitality
In an industry that has been around for centuries, introducing new technology is not always the easiest transition, but with the introduction of new digital tools such as mobile ordering, and back of house digital checklists, the benefits of technology is being felt right across venues.
Steve Sidd, MD of Catering HQ, said his company is using technology to streamline operations and that the efficiencies the introduction of new ordering tools and administrative functions is delivering dividends to their business, after they built their own customized software platform to service their 28 venues across the country.
Meanwhile Marianne Mewett, GM Digital for Australian Venue Co., whose venues have averaged over 100,000 covers a month since implementing new booking systems, emphasized that the challenge of successful implementation into venues, is to focus on how the technology meets the specific needs of their customers, and that in the case of hospitality it’s not a one size fits all as pubs will have different challenges to restaurants etc.
And it’s not just the venue experience where innovations in technology can create efficiencies, as Tim Smallwood, Principal, Foodservice Design Management highlighted, with blockchain technology advancing tracking from Farm to Plate and enhancing food safety systems for the entire foodservice cycle. While some of these technologies are not new, he said, the food service industry has been slow to adopt them and key learnings could eb taken from related food industries such as food equipment and manufacturing.
2. Understanding your customer’s ingredients
“We’ve never had so much information on our customers,” Marianne commented and this sentiment was echoed by Mads Hallet, Head of Marketing, Mr Yum, who acknowledged that implement new technology could be daunting for hospitality owners, especially those struggling to operate under the current economic and environmental strain.
However, by using integrated technology platforms, like Mr Yum, venues now have the ability to track customer purchasing and behavior, to better understand their customer journeys and in turn bring diners back again and again, to generate real loyalty.
Technology also allows venues to personalize the customer experience, be it reminders of key milestones like birthdays or favorite dishes and to automatic it where possible – taking the hard work out of the venues’ hands and into the digital marketing realm.
The panel also commented that venues should also think about what their customer journey looks like after they leave venue, and incorporate this information into future marketing campaigns.
3. The S Word: Staff
While the hospitality industry has never been known for being tech savvy, it was it’s greatest opportunity, according to Steve, who views technology as a key staff retention tool and an integral part to success hospitality roll-outs.
Whenever implementing new technology, staff training is key. Mads said that only through thorough training can new technologies like mobile ordering, truly become a natural part of the service process. Once the technology becomes second nature, staff are then able to provide a better customer experience as they have more time to explain menus and specials rather than rushing back to the POS. She also highlighted the benefits of ensure business took all their staff on the tech journey. This demystifies the tech, and allows the users, be it front of house staff or back, to fully understand the benefits that technology can provide them in their roles.
Marianne also commented the technology has seen a shift towards increased staff retention and loyalty, as these platforms not only make their jobs easier, reducing admin but can also offer employee specific benefits and incentives.
4. Getting an appetite for technology
Despite being traditional late adopters of technology, the last 12months has accelerated the take of new technology and it seems that once business have taken the leap, they’re not going back.
As one of the leading mobile ordering platforms globally, Mads said that Mr Yum has not seen venues return to paper menus once they’ve implement mobile menus – a trend the world over. Similarly she said the hospitality could learn from other industries like the retail sector, that have undergone a similar e-commerce revolution in recent years, and should consider how the online customer journey can complement the physical in venue journey, like has been seen in online retail.
The Australian Venue Co. have also been surprised had how widely adopted the new processes have become, with even venues in far North Queensland, who had not been mandated in the same way to adopt QR codes and mobile ordering, seeing 20-30% of their ordering via the new platforms.
Technology has also helped business bounce back from forced shutdowns, with Steve commenting on how digital platforms and the relative safety they provide for patrons, boosting customer confidence in returning quickly to the table.
5. Keeping the hospitality in digital
If anything the last 12 months has taught the industry to refocus back on the customer and generally being ‘hospitable’, after all, the technology is only one part of the service process.
The challenge for hospitality providers is ensuring that they cater for all different types of customers styles, and that any technology they implement doesn’t take away from the best customer experience. Marianne said venues should layer their service styles so that customers, where possible, can order in the way that suits them be that at the bar, from waitstaff or on a mobile.
According to Tim, if this is done right, and the front of house is linked to the back of house, then the tech can run in the background and venues can focus what they do best, the business of hospitality.
“The meal still needs to be served with a smile,” added Steve. “Chefs still need to plate up beautiful dishes and add the TLC that sets a food experience apart. Technology should go hand in hand, because no matter how good the system is, we’re not looking to be served by robots.”
The panel all agreed, technology was here to stay, and that those that took it and implemented it properly would reap the benefits for both staff and customers alike. Marianne ended the panel and summed up the benefits of digital in hospitality by commenting, “that it’s a privilege to have your customer’s data, so use it wisely.”
- Wendy Hargreaves, Founder Bread+Butter Media
- Mads Hallet, Head of Marketing, Mr Yum
- Marianne Mewett, GM Digital, Australian Venue Co.
- Steve Sidd, MD, Catering HQ
- Tim Smallwood, Principal, Foodservice Design Management