Today, Innovation has become a confusing and popular buzzword. With more than 250 books with "innovation" in their title having been published in the last three months, according to a search of Amazon.com, we can all agree that it is a pretty important concept.
It is mainly associated with the development of technological tools infused in everyone’s daily work and life, which encourages the consumer to expect to find a digital ecosystem wherever they go.
Innovation is however more than just a good idea or a smart object. If it represents obvious opportunities for restaurants to improve their efficiency, it also implies a process of restructuration and implementation that can easily be perceived as a challenge by independent restauranteurs.
With the European HoReCa (Hotel-Restaurant-Catering) sector slowly being flooded with technological innovation, one of METRO’s most important target groups -- the independent restaurateurs – have to put aside their skepticism and thrive to meet their customers’ digital expectations.
In fact, while many chain restaurants have realized the importance of adopting new technology to accomplish strenuous tasks and enhance the guest dining experience, many independents are still finding it challenging to improve efficiency in daily operations. They feel vulnerable to loss of market share to larger operators and struggling to keep up with them.
METRO aims to help independent restaurateurs by raising awareness on the tremendous benefits of technology usage, and help its clients to strengthen their competitiveness facing the large chain restaurants.
A student business project
As part of EHL’s Bachelor program in International Hotel Management, students get the opportunity to participate in a Student Business Project, providing consultancy solutions for real-life industry mandates. As a key partner and sponsor of EHL’s research Chair of Innovation, METRO mandated a group of 6 students to create a restaurant concept that will be the basis of the Restaurant of the Future.
After 9 intensive weeks of this Student Business Project, EHL students have identified important key finding that certainly confirmed the various trends that have emerged within the industry the last years.
The students conducted meticulous research and thoroughly analyzed each fundamental touch-point with the customers and the vital back of the house steps. The majority of difficulties and challenges detected from interviews with restaurant customers and independent restaurateurs were consistent with the findings from desktop research. Interviews held with the end consumers mainly conclude that restaurateurs lack in visibility and online service, traditional paper menus are outdated and mobile payment is missing. Despite this increasing expectation towards technology, it was noted that the human touch cannot disappear.
For the interviews with independent restaurateurs, the most frequent issues mentioned were purchasing, recruitment, and bureaucracy. Some other challenges such as waste management and revenue management were not pointed out by the restaurateurs, but are equally important when it comes to optimizing resources.
Additional interviews with EHL professors, tech savvy restaurants and tech companies were conducted in order to learn more on restaurant technology applications and development. These findings provide extra insights for the future implementation of the Restaurant of the Future.
The restaurant of the future
After completing the research, EHL students proposed a vision of the ideal technological Restaurant of the Future. Showcasing the Restaurant of the Future will give a tangible inspiration for the independent restaurateur to start perceiving technology as a facilitator and a benefit for their business, furthermore positively shifting mind-sets and knowledge towards technology.
The Restaurant of the future vision aims to improve guest experience and streamline back of house processes. To reinforce guest loyalty towards the restaurant, several tools have been discovered as a must-have for the restaurant of the future. To connect with customers prior to the meal, this restaurant needs to be strongly present online, not only with a website but also on social media, review sites and reservation/delivery platforms. During the meal the e-menu is a powerful tool that will not only improve customer satisfaction, but also support the restaurateur to increase average check. In order to meet consumers’ expectations, the payment process in the restaurant of the future needs to be expanded to mobile payment. After the meal, the relationship with the guest might decrease, thus follow up campaigns are the right strategy to maintain a strong relationship with customers.
Regarding back of the house digitalization, the restaurant of the future will display tools and processes that will optimize core activities such as purchasing, kitchen preparation and human resources recruitment and training. Other devices will be installed in the restaurant with the purpose of increasing revenue and decreasing costs; such as a revenue management systems, waste management training and means to reduce bureaucracy.
This ideal Restaurant of the future will not applicable to every independent restaurant and individual solutions are specific to each circumstance, such as restaurateurs’ financial resources, educational background and the concrete problems they face. To fortify the relationship between METROand the independent restaurateurs, we created three packages with different technological tools that are tailored to different restaurants’ needs.
- The Manager Package was personalized to help restaurateurs who struggle to attract enough customers.
- The Leader Package was tailor made for those restaurateurs that need to consolidate their business
- The Champion Package was created to optimize restaurant performance in specific areas such as revenue management and customer relationship management.
EHL Faculty Coaches: Dr. Marc Stierand and Mr Ian Millar