Tech & the Foodservice Industry

The Foodservice Consultants Society International, or FCSI for short, offer design and management consultancy services to, as their name would suggest, the foodservice and hospitality industry. In their online magazine this month, they take a look at the role of technology and whether we're losing that personal touch when it comes to eating out - something our MD, Scott Muncaster, was happy to contribute to.

Check out the online article here, or for the full Q&A interview with Scott read on!

What is the key to keeping a restaurant up-to-date with the latest technologies, whilst maintaining a relevant and personalised experience?

Restaurants who get this right are the ones who pay attention to their guests. They understand which technologies their guests use and adopt them too. The relevant and personalised experience comes first, technology is only deployed if it enhances the experience. Too often, “innovation” is an excuse for giving customers stuff they don’t want, deploying new technologies simply because they are new or because they might save money. For me, innovative technology delivers the simplest transactional journeys, the most beautiful engaging content – it’s a pleasure to use and adds to the restaurant experience. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t belong in the restaurant.

How have you, and your analytics team Data Know How, worked together to produce effective solutions for your foodservice clients?   

Adactus builds heavy duty systems that allow restaurants (and other businesses) to offer their customers digital services through websites and mobile. We offer ordering (delivery and takeaway), bookings, payment and loyalty programmes – all or which generate an enormous amount of valuable customer data. Until last year, we’d provide this data to various 3rd parties who’d provide analytics services to the client. By bringing Data Know How into the fold, we’re now able to offer an end-to-end service where we both generate data from online services AND turn it into insight – along with data from other sources, such as EPOS or wi-fi services.
We’re in the middle of doing some very nerdy basket analysis for a major restaurant chain, helping them understand which products are most commonly purchased together. This will allow them to offer more personalised and relevant promotional offers to their guests. Having both skill sets under one roof – the programmers who build restaurant systems and the analysts who turn data into insight – has allowed us to work faster and more cost effectively for our client than we ever could as two separate suppliers.

This era is increasingly becoming dubbed the ‘customer age’, due to customers' ability to use the Internet in making informed purchasing decisions. How do you believe foodservice providers can utilise these developments in their favour?

The rapid growth in mobile technology has certainly led to a shift in the balance of power, with consumers now dictating what’s important and what isn’t.  Attitudes and requirements around food have changed too – “tribes” have formed for whom specific information will inform their choices.
Restaurants need to gather the data that matters and make it accessible to those who care. Using technology is the only practical way to do this.
Just as an example, food intolerances, allergies, and lifestyle choices have meant restaurants need to show guests what ingredients are in their dishes in more detail than ever before. This isn’t a nice to have – it’s the law, but it’s also an opportunity to serve a large (and growing) number of people who need reassurance that eating in your restaurant will be safe and enjoyable. Social media ensures restaurants who serve this community well – perhaps offering allergen and ingredient filters on a digital menu, so guests can see dishes that are ok for them - are praised and rewarded with footfall. Sharing data is the key.
That’s just one example; ethical sourcing, food provenance, brand stories, information about products for the uninitiated – What is it? What does it taste like? Will I like it? – can each be a deal-breaker for some guests. Putting all that information in the physical menu is probably impractical and doesn’t help people researching before they visit; putting it online or in your app will get you closer to the people for whom this information is important.
Brands who embrace this are creating a competitive advantage; those who do the bare minimum will fall behind.

What will the future bring for foodservice technology?

Automation, integration, personalisation, choice.
The functional elements of visiting a restaurant will be increasingly automated and integrated to consumer technologies – “Alexa, book me a table for four at AndrĂ©s, 7pm tonight” is here already, pretty much. Other parts of the journey are being automated too – ordering, table management, paying, adding points to my loyalty card. Brands will need to think carefully about what they automate and what retains a human touch – or their restaurants could turn into giant vending machines.
Technology will enable ever-greater personalisation – data capture across all touchpoints will give richer insights on individual customers’ needs and expectations from a brand. There’ll be no excuse for getting it wrong, promoting the “kids eat free” deal to guests with no children, or “steak night” to a guest with a vegetarian profile.
A successful restaurant will always offer good food, a nice venue to spend time in, excellent service. But the definitions of each will vary more widely than ever before, customer to customer.

Technology will be the enabler that allows restaurants to offer what each customer wants.

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