One of the biggest changes caused by the pandemic has been the accelerated uptake of technology-driven by new demand channels for hospitality such as home delivery and at-table ordering.
Although the use of technology was already underway, there is no doubt that the pandemic accelerated its adoption and this wasn’t only due to changing service requirements. The last two years have also seen critical staff shortages with the double-whammy of rising costs.
These increases in costs have come from all areas of business from rates and VAT and then to CO2 and energy. With inflation rising steeply, the cost of all types of supplies are rising including food. With costs soaring and staff shortages not going away good use of technology provides a great opportunity to help ease the pain while also providing innovative ways to grow revenues and create new services for customers.
If businesses are looking to improve efficiency and productivity this year, while raising order values and increasing table turnover, these are our top picks for tech to help achieve those goals. Read on, but I have to qualify this here – while researching this feature we realised that we are only scratching the surface… watch this space!
First up …
Most of you will be well aware of EPoS technology – Electronic Point of Sale. I don’t think any of you need an explanation of what is. It is probably one of the most important pieces of equipment in a hospitality venue. But are you making the most of the tools it offers? It doesn’t just tell you your daily sales, EPOS systems are at the heart of every transaction. Whether it’s a traditional mounted EPOS solution or a mobile/tablet-based EPOS device, these systems have transformed the way your customers pay.
For owners, they mean that you can gain access to real-time data that will put your financial performance into context. Your integrated EPOS system will record every transaction, whether that’s a meal sold in your restaurant or a cocktail. Providing actionable reports and insight means you know more about your business, customers, what is selling, and when, than ever before. And faster transaction processing keeps customers happy, especially at busy times. The potential for manual errors is also removed almost completely. An EPOS system provides exactly that – and it’s a brilliant marketing tool as well.
It’s easy to collect and analyse mountains of relevant and highly valuable details about each customer. Physical risks like employee theft become much less likely thanks to an EPOS system.
Customers expect EPOS. They like to pay quickly and can use electronic payment methods like Google Pay. It can also provide information on customer behaviour and purchasing patterns which can help target promotions and help seal customer’s loyalty.
The only downside, if your business is small or a start-up, is the initial cost. Obviously, the up-front cost of something all-singing and all-dancing is more than the price of a simple cash register or POS till that only takes money and doesn’t connect with other systems. It depends on your plans. If you have big plans for growth and expansion, EPOS future-proofs you.
It’s been around for years, and I recall many years ago being involved in an installation in a Glasgow pub when it could link bar sales to stock orders much to the delight of the bar manager who only later discovered that they could never work out how to program the system. These days, all of this is much more user friendly. That doesn’t mean it isn’t sophisticated but you can scale up your levels as you get more familiar with what it can do for you, but you do also need to keep your staff trained and your software updated.
According to John Strachan at Argyll Systems, most customers start out with the basic system and then start to build on it as they get more used to what it can do. They usually start with the till and stock control features with the till system taking credit cards and digital payments and then might take it up a level to include hand-help ordering.
EPoS means that everything can be recorded automatically from the hand help device as the order can go directly to the kitchen while the costs can be added to the bill at the till. This not only saves time in terms of staff walking back and forth to place orders but prevents lost orders and helps the kitchen manage the order flow.
There is just so much more that EPoS technology can bring to a business than just till functionality and it’s all designed to help save businesses money while also increasing revenues.
Over the pandemic, for example, ICR Touch saw a huge increase in the number of establishments getting on board with digital solutions – from order-to-table apps like ByTable to full paperless systems. Having an online webshop and app that allows customers to view a menu, place orders, and make payments from their own devices at their tables is certainly an expectation for many consumers now. The ByTable solution from ICR Touch gives business owners the chance to re-focus their staff on providing incredible customer service, whilst reducing order mistakes and streamlining the whole process. It’s proven that order values increase when customers can order in their own time, too!
ICR Touch also provides hand-held order pads – Touch Pocket – and this links to their TouchKitchen service which helps chefs and all kitchen staff manage the order flow and timings. When staff take an order, TouchKitchen receives information directly from the TouchPoint till system or PocketTouch hand-held order pad.
Jonathan MacDonald of Scoop Restaurants wouldn’t be without his own QSR system. He says, “We do 600 orders on a Saturday, if we didn’t have it that would probably be only 400.”
Finally, reservations systems can, and should, be integrated with your EPoS System. A good reservation system will enable customers to access availability when making a reservation and have automated table management as well as allowing staff to use any device to see the live information. All of this can save a huge amount of staff administration time as well as improving customer service.
Simply Service was brought to market by Argyll Systems and Cerno Data Solutions about 6 months ago after being piloted at The Coachman Hotel, Kilsyth. This simple little box sits on the table and allows customers to press a button to call for service and then to call for the bill. Because the ‘call for the bill’ speeds up service (as does the call for service) restaurants are seeing a saving of around 15 minutes per table. Also, they are seeing their revenue grow. The call for service feature has, in one establishment, grown wet sales by 17% and this is probably because customers often order an extra round due to not having to wait for a server to notice them. Better still, because it uses radio frequency rather than wi-fi it means it can cover much wider areas too.
It comes as SaaS (Software as a Service) and each box costs around £5 per table per month.
There are also apps that many bars and restaurants used during the pandemic and they are here to stay. They came into their own when people were not allowed to queue at the bar – they could order from their tables. Over the two years, the number of apps available has increased significantly. Hungrrr has developed its app so that owners can choose the right app for them which can be tailored to their needs. For instance, you can highlight upgrade options for brands of wines and spirits, or even snacks, easily on their virtual menu, which could help drive up average cheque size and increase revenues. Its technology also allows guests to add a tip at the touch of a button, stimulating increased rewards for your teams.
Hoteliers can benefit from their Hungrrr app which can offer features such as check-in and table booking in dining outlets. The platform can also feature a virtual concierge and room service solution. This will enable guests to order room service, request items such as additional shampoo or towels and much, much more.
Another feature of the Hungrrr app is that you easily engage your customers with push notifications directly to their smartphone when they download the app, such as ‘new tapas deal on weekends’ or ‘10% off à la carte menu this Easter’.
HR and business support
You will have different types of solutions for different areas – HR for example would be an entirely different set of needs and systems. We asked Kenny Blair Managing Director of Buzzworks to tell us his favourite piece of tech. He said, “ We use about 10 different types, but I think we would find it very difficult to run the company with nearly 600 staff without some form of People Management System. We use Fourth Workforce which is a piece of software that helps us manage everyone that works in the business from interview right through their journey with us.”
There are various systems but planning your manpower requirements, your biggest cost, is essential. Obviously, the more staff you have the more important it is that you link rota’s into sales so that you can predict when you need extra staff on and when you don’t. Ideally automating it through an app helps you schedule rotas, optimise wage spend, record attendance and approve timesheets for payroll.
Again you only have to google to get a full list of apps and platforms that can help. But you need your rotas to be as nimble, flexible and intuitive as possible. You also need (staff like this too) functionality that allows them to swap shifts. It also helps to have an integrated group message system, which allows you to communicate quickly with your team – about shifts, about the business and so on. Systems like this can also allow staff advance notice of what hours they are working, which allows them to plan their lives accordingly.
Says Jonathan MacDonald, “Our app and programme allow us to plan. People get rotas and request swaps all on our app. We also communicate with them through it.”
Another tool along the same lines is a Business Information tool, known as a BI. It shows you at a glance an overview of all parts of your business. It takes the information from all the different parts of your organisation and organises it. Again there are plenty out from the likes of Zonal, Jedox – as one licensee told me, “After I got it, I couldn’t imagine how I ran my business without it.
Marketing and Promotion
It has never been more important to market your venues. Digital technology allows you to post on Facebook, and Instagram and utilise Tik Tok but it is worth looking at a digital strategy. There is nothing worse than going to a website and finding it has not been updated. Employing an agency can pay off in the long term (and hopefully many of you will have been able to access the digital grants, and already have improvements underway).
How do you make your pub, bar, and restaurant stand out and what to do if you get the dreaded ‘Trip Advisor’ negative review. Do you respond? What do you say? Will how your response make things worse? There are plenty of agencies out there that can help. It would even be worth sending your staff on a course, yourself too if you are the owner.
Recently I heard a very positive review of Tik Tok – a restaurateur employed a Tik Tok expert to promote food during quiet periods – and it took off. More than 200,000 people watched it, and as a result, the restaurant is busy all day.
Click2Convert offer a range of marketing and strategy services to get things set up just the way you need them at the start. With technology, knowing where you want to go is much more important, and having a strategy really helps you save money and make the best use of your systems, investment and time. It is incredibly easy to end up with processes or systems that won’t talk to each other when you need them to. And don’t forget that by integrating with your EPoS system you will have detailed customer information that can target the right customer at the right time, driving up conversions.
Click2Convert are a digital specialist in the Hospitality sector and if you are a hotel then their metasearch offering can help your hotel display live room rates across all the key Metasearch engines, including Google Hotel Ads, Tripadvisor, Trivago and Kayak. They implement a strategy aimed at that driving incremental website revenue and lower overall commission paid to OTAs.
Loyalty Systems are also important especially when it comes to customer retention. But it can also have other benefits such as giving you relevant information on customers’ habits, likes and dislikes, which allows you to tailor the offer to them which in turn makes them feel valued, and drives more loyalty and sales ultimately. It doesn’t have to be complicated. You can send customised emails and campaigns to reconnect with your regular, personalize the experience for VIPs, influencers, and top spenders with tags and guest notes and measure your team’s performance with scorecards and direct guest feedback. There are various systems from OpenTable to Lightspeed… that can offer everything from a highly targeted rewards program to automated SMS campaigns. You only have to google … and you get a vast variety of companies – all you have to do is pick the right one for you or ask your peers for recommendations.
One company that is thinking outside the box is Crerar Hotels which is creatively using quizzes to engage with their customers and has launched a gamified app. It is a great example of having good information about your customer’s personal preference and is a clever way to capture relevant information in an engaging and fun way.
Their dedicated quiz is aimed at tailoring breaks to travellers and is part of the group’s ‘I Choose’ campaign for spring and summer. The bespoke element comes off the back of industry stats revealing that 86 per cent of customers say personalisation plays a key role in purchase decisions and also ranks among the top hospitality trends of 2022 and beyond.
If you have tech you love let us know.