Insight: Finding the right technology for the on-trade

With technology moving so fast, and constantly evolving the way we live and do business, can any of us afford not to speculate to accumulate? DRAM investigates the best technology out there to benefit licesnsees. 

By Annabelle Love

There is a lot in the adage ‘speculate to accumulate’ – and perhaps never more so than when it comes to investing in technology for your business. The ubiquitous nature of Smartphones, Tablets, online ordering, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter is making our lives increasingly joined up – and that means our thinking should be too when it comes to hospitality.

Design plays a key role in creating the right ambience and experience for customers, whether at a village pub or fine dining restaurant, but it is just as important to ensure that you install the right technology too. Who are your guests, why do they come to you and what are their expectations? Customer-facing gadgets might work well in a casual, fast service setting, but not for guests in a more formal setting who expect the personal touch.

The Eatsa fast food chain in the USA has taken customer-facing technology so far that there are no front of house staff. Instead, customers order and pay for salad bowls on an in-store iPad or their phone, chefs prepare the food behind a wall lined with cubbies and, when it’s ready, an electronic sign tells customers which cubby to collect their food from.

The rise of customer ordering through Tablets and phones in hotels and restaurants presents a unique opportunity to gather a huge range of data which can then be used for marketing. Industry experts believe this is an area that the licensed trade will really start taking advantage of in 2017.

Apps are another key area that must not be overlooked – especially given the growth of the ‘mobile wallet’ and the increasing numbers of people using Apple Pay and Google Pay to buy food and drink. The key to creating successful apps is that they must be easy to use – easy to log in to, easy to order on and easy to redeem loyalty points and special offers.

One firm that has made major inroads into this market is Zapper – their all-in-one app is live in over 12,000 businesses across Europe, the USA and Africa. Clients here include CAU Glasgow and La Garrigue in Edinburgh.

Customers simply scan a QR code which instantly uploads the bill to their Smartphone for quick and secure payments combined with direct offers and rewards. Vouchers can be sent straight to the app and automatically redeemed on payment without the need to print, share codes or open a different app – making it very straightforward to use.

Gerry Hooper, CEO of Zapper in the UK and Ireland, explains: “Zapper is a simple all-in-one app for mobile payments, vouchering and loyalty – it’s the smart way to pay for a Scan.Pay.Go lifestyle.

“The power is beyond the payment and with every payment, businesses are able to collect valuable data in order to reward customers with personalised offers and rewards based on their previous spend.

“Businesses can instantly understand customer spend data, peak trading times and send direct messages straight to their customers to update them on promotions, events and special offers or just to say hello.”

Card payments present another way in which you can gather data about your customers – and turn it into an effective and individually-targeted marketing tool as Mike McCabe, Head of Business Development at Markadis, explains when he describes their own scheme – Mii-Promo.

He says: “Mii-Promo is a ready-made loyalty scheme and powerful analytic reporting tool, showing customer phone numbers, email addresses, top spenders, lapsed customers, average basket spends, growth opportunities and much, much more.

“We harvest a database through chip and pin machines which means we can profile every single card spender and build a loyalty platform for that.

“We can turn the running cost of a client’s chip and pin machine into an investment, via us harvesting the database, slicing and dicing it and being able to give it back to the client and say: ‘This is what your spending customers look like, this is what will entice them back in.’

“It’s really where payment meets marketing and it’s about us turning that spend from a dead spend into an investment.”

The firm works with more than 1,000 businesses in the UK and Ireland and was recently endorsed by Glasgow’s Best Bar None group.

When it comes to internet access in venues, innovative firm KILTR WiFi have come up with a simple way round the need for customers to input passwords – and created a brilliant marketing tool at the same time.

The user simply swipes through six content cards – all of which can contain information like menus or promotions – and then they are logged in.

Paul Crawford, Sales and Marketing Director at KILTR WiFi, explains: “We started in this as a user experience. Most people, if they’re anything like me, hate having to input logins and passwords to use the WiFi in a bar or restaurant – our system essentially does away with all of that.

“Instead, you swipe through six content cards to access the internet. If any of them are of interest to you, you click on a link which takes you through to their profile on the KILTR platform, which could contain more information such as a menu, a cocktail or information about a future event.

“These cards – or ‘digital flyers’ – can be used by the operator for things like marketing and some of our clients have monetised their network.”

Paul cites the Bier Halle in Glasgow’s Gordon Street as a great example of somewhere that the technology is working really well for the client. He says: “It’s a very busy bar. They have two access points in there and over the December period they had 3,000 people connecting to the outside access point and another 3,000 connecting to the access point downstairs. For a brand, that can be very valuable advertising at the point of sale.

“The system can help drive revenue, engage customers and inform them about future events and help up-sell different products that the operator is trying to promote. Instead of having to market to your customer via email, this system cuts all of that out and you can actually market to your customer at the point when they are connected to your internet.”

Josh Barr, General Manager at Bier Halle, has nothing but praise for the new system. He says on KILTR’s own website: “The innovative swipe to connect function has taken away any annoying password queries and the linked content cards allow us to put offers, promotions and general news about the bar right into our customers’ hands.”

The venue has also been able to secure sponsors to advertise via the WiFi connection, creating another revenue stream.

KILTR WiFi officially launched last November after running a series of pilots and trials and they currently have 29 clients in Glasgow, with five installations pending in Edinburgh and more in Inverness and Oban.

Paul says: “It’s really beginning to take off for us now. It’s been a few years in development and quite a journey to get to the point of now having a product that people seem to want – it’s very exciting.”

One area where new technology has apparently been slower to catch on is gaming machines – with most pubs sticking with the traditional units, like fruit machines, quiz machines, pool tables and digital juke boxes, according to Stuart Hart, Managing Director of New Coin Automatics.

Stuart says: “Digital products have been available for a long time and they’re starting to peek through but they haven’t taken anything by storm yet. They are not performing as well as they should be at the moment.

“People who play gaming machines are quite traditional – they like the idea of something mechanical like the one-armed bandits. Cops and Robbers and Deal or No Deal – those are the machines that are making the money.

“Video juke boxes are all the rage at the moment and digital signage, putting advertising through existing televisions, that sort of thing.

“The biggest thing that’s happening in the industry at the moment is the new £1 coins and the polymer notes. That’s what we are focusing on – going round all the machines converting them.”

Alison Lambie, Director of Sims Automatics, believes it is vital to keep pace with change – and recommends that clients review technological advances regularly to ensure they stay ahead of the game.

She says: “With technology continuing to transform the world we live in it is important to keep your finger on the pulse and review technological advances within your area of business at least every six to 12 months.

“It is highly probable that without knowledge of advances in technology operators believe there is no reason to upgrade equipment. Technology is an essential tool in improving your business and profits. We understand that time is not only money but also a very valuable resource, the advances in technology enable us and our customers to work smarter, not harder.”

Going back to that original adage about accumulating – with technology moving so fast, and constantly evolving the way we live and do business, can any of us afford not to speculate?

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