How is technology revolutionising the catering and hospitality industry?

As of July 2017, Airbnb had over 150 million users worldwide, and JustEat had 17.6 million active users. Foodie and hotel apps, as well as the likes of Deliveroo, are becoming the new big thing in the catering and hospitality industry. The sector recognises the demand to offer a platform that users are familiar with — and the demand for an easier, quicker process that digital technology can deliver. For instance, it is now possible for consumers to have Michelin Star food delivered to their home — and you can now book, reserve and check in at a hotel without needing to speak with the hotel directly.

But do these apps pose a threat to establishments that remain faithful to their traditional methods? Whilst apps have made it easier for consumers to book hotels and tables, have they taken it a step further and simplified other processes in the industry for employers and their staff, such as taking a food order and checking into a hotel? Here, catering equipment retailers, Nisbets, looks at how these advances in technology are helping the industry move forward and become more efficient. Could this be the end for traditional processes, both for consumers and industry employees?

Digital establishments

Following in the footsteps of other industries, such as retail, there are now several catering and hospitality businesses that have bounced to popularity as a digital establishment. JustEat revolutionised the restaurant and takeaway market. The digital app and website allows users — in 13 different countries — to browse a range of local take-out restaurants and place online orders for delivery or collection.

In 2017, Paul Harrison, interim chief executive and chief financial officer, commented: “JustEat has enjoyed another period of strong growth. In addition to structural market growth, we are also seeing the benefits of on-going investment in technology and marketing.”

It is thanks to the sector’s awareness and investment in innovative technology that it has been able to experience so much success — it saw a gap in the market for a platform that combined the takeaway needs of online users. JustEat proved that there was room in the market, which encouraged the start-up of similar businesses, such as Hungry House, Deliveroo and Uber Eats.

Additionally, business is booming for hotel booking platforms, such as Booking.com and Trivago. However, with the rise of Airbnb, could traditional hotels be in danger? Research conducted by BDRC Continental has suggested that apps like Airbnb had outperformed hotel brands within a similar awareness scope to Airbnb. Airbnb offers the opportunity for the DIY hotelier to be seen.

It’s estimated that 9% of tourists in the UK have rented a private space within someone’s home — like the ones advertised on the Airbnb platform. Within the European leisure market, there is an emerging trend and it is only expected to rise as millennials choose a cheaper alternative featured on a digital platform, as opposed to more traditional hotels. But how can traditional hotels get a slice of the action?

With low-cost hotel accommodation set to increase by 29%, perhaps this is a way the hotel industry is fighting back against app-based forms of sourcing accommodation. If hotel brands are to compete then, understanding and utilising app technology is important.

App technology

Some well-established catering and hospitality companies have launched their own apps to keep their head in the game. Wetherspoons recently launched its ‘Order and Pay’ app across its branches. The app essentially does what it says on the tin by eliminating the task of queuing at the bar to order your food or grab a drink — instead, you can order from the comfort of your table via your phone, then pay and wait for a member of staff to bring your order.

Wetherspoons isn’t the first to introduce this type of app. Whilst apps aren’t ‘new’ anymore, they have become one of the latest trends in the market, with many businesses realising the importance of providing their consumers with a well-designed mobile app to enhance their experience, before, during and after their visit. Mobile marketing is no longer enough, mobile communication and application is required to survive the incredibly competitive market.

Premier Inn is another firm that has introduced app technology to enhance its guests’ experience. The Premier Inn mobile app allows users to book a stay, add extras and amend their booking before they stay. With access to exclusive saver rates, you are guaranteed to see the best rates available booking direct. Additionally, Premier Inn now has digital check-in points, too — for guests who want a quick check-in process, without interacting with staff.

In a recent Nisbets pulse survey, results revealed that social media was the second most effective form of marketing to benefit businesses within the industry, only behind word of mouth. But it is time to think about the bigger picture. The survey also revealed that consumer demand was an important factor, with 20% of respondents claiming they consider consumer demand when changing menus — but what about the overall restaurant experience?

Apps have become a driving force in the market. In a 2016 survey, 25% of respondents revealed that they had at least one restaurant app on their phone, and further research revealed that 70% of smartphone users admitted to looking at restaurant menus on their device. However, 95% of independent restaurants do not have their own mobile website, according to Food Tech Connect, and just 16% have a mobile app, despite a perceived positive impact on consumer loyalty.

The rise in digital processes

At Google’s first UK digital marketing event, it was revealed that 31% of all restaurant sales are driven by online research. Google’s tool showed that 28% of consumers use their mobile to carry out the research with the same percentage making decisions less than an hour before dining. But it is not just outside the restaurant that establishments should be considering app technology. Using it inhouse can make your staffs’ lives easier. From apps that help waiters and waitress take orders, to apps that track bar tabs, take payments and manage reservations — there are now innovative app technologies to replace nearly all traditional processes (apart from the actual cooking).

In a survey by Opentable, 85% of diners wish they knew how long the wait for a table would be and 85% said they would like to add their names to a waitlist before arriving. A guest manage system, reservation system, or table management software is key to achieving these consumer goals. By implementing a front-of-house management system, you can control and track reservations and wait lists.

Furthermore, a POS system and a back-of-house kitchen display system makes the ordering process smoother and more efficient. The POS system allows the server to input a customer’s order and record transactions via a tablet. The order can then be directly sent to the kitchen display system, replacing paper slips with customer orders that can easily be lost and mixed up.

Whilst traditional service methods work, innovative technology solutions are allowing the catering and hospitality industry to deliver a higher standard of service that appeals to consumer demand, before, during and after their visit. Inhouse digital solutions create a more efficient operation whilst enhancing consumer experience. What do you think? Is app technology key to the future of your success?