Back in the days of pen and paper, the gastronomy sector was just fine. Before online reservations, customers simply picked up the phone to reserve their table. Before digital menu boards, a blackboard and chalk did the job. Before restaurants offered their guests free Wi-Fi, people had conversations that didn’t involve commenting on the suitability of selfies. While digitalization is arguably an opportunity rather than an obligation, with so many businesses jumping on the bandwagon, failure to do so is to forego a competitive advantage.
Gastronomers reaping the benefits of technological progress
Needless to say, digitalization in the food and beverage sector goes far beyond switching the corporate accounts from a leather-bound logbook to Excel. We are increasingly familiar with self-ordering kiosks at quick service restaurants. Handheld order-taking devices – in effect, electronic points of sale – reduce turnaround time, eliminating the need for servers to relay orders to the kitchen manually. Restaurant management systems are fed with dine-in and online orders from the respective website, mobile app or third-party aggregators, boosting efficiency.
These examples demonstrate how tech-savvy solutions can overcome logistical hurdles like soothing ointment on day-to-day pain points. But how could technology be leveraged to deliver F&B business smarts? How could the principles of big data and analytics so honed by the IT behemoths of this world be tailored to restaurants? Hospitality Insights spoke to Tiziano Nessi and Simon Bernhard, product managers at Hospitality Digital to find out more.
Leveraging data throughout the company lifecycle
As Bernhard explains, data-driven decision-making can bear fruit as early as a restaurant business’ infancy. Before investing the sizeable sums required to realize the dream of running one’s own restaurant, or indeed in an effort to reassure investors their money will be well spent, food trucks or pop-ups can provide proof of concept. Bernhard recommends testing the waters with a minimum viable product, tracking certain metrics to benchmark performance: the number of dishes sold, food cost, labor cost, preparation time and an NPS score. Both quantitative and qualitative data help complete the picture, yielding insights into market size, demographics, customer preferences and the perceived value of your product or service.
Once underway, tech solutions can aid businesses in complying with regulations. Nessi highlights a “major macro movement in Europe” in that European governments are demanding increased accounting transparency, rendering reporting requirements more stringent. Replacing traditional cashier systems with new hard and software can help ease this burden.
With market viability and compliance in hand, owners of established restaurants can set about optimizing their decision-making at a more granular level. Take Menukit, for example. Previously, menu planning may have been a laborious task, weighing up exciting new flavors against ingredient prices, attempting to itemize the cost per plate, when in reality suppliers' shelves may be stocked with bulk-buy products and expenses come in the form of monthly bills. This tool, developed by Hospitality Digital, provides an overview of food costs at a glance and features functionalities with which to create and compile recipes, calculating all of the relevant variables. Costs per serving are generated thanks to weight and amendable product price entries, incorporating VAT. Forecast profit margins and guidance on appropriate price-setting are shown all in one place.
For a more holistic overview, Hospitality Digital’s Cockpit can be used to keep track of all restaurant KPIs. Revenues are documented, whether per category, per waiter or overall. Top seller statistics are compiled along with analyses per table and your projected breakeven point. Consulting this data from either a smartphone or tablet, displayed in user-friendly charts, enables restaurant owners to stay in control wherever they are and make decisions that are both intuitive and supported by tangible data. The best of foundations on which to increase revenues and profit margins.
Reacting to the times
With the world in the throes of the COVID-19 public health crisis, Hospitality Digital is demonstrating how technology can be a facilitator in reaction to contemporary developments. Within just a few days, the company created two tools to support the gastronomy industry under these exceptional circumstances. Firstly, a food order option that restaurants can integrate into their own websites using the free website builder “Dish”. And secondly, a voucher portal developed in cooperation with OptioPay and METRO, enabling restauranteurs to offer their guests vouchers to buy now and redeem later – providing the industry with invaluable financial support.
In sum, restauranteurs can benefit from technology in two major ways: If they can identify pain points from their perspective as entrepreneurs, they can use technology to smoothen out the bumps, removing any hurdles standing between their potential customers and that seven o’clock reservation (once lockdown is lifted, of course) – not to mention drawing on tech to track customer loyalty and optimize marketing. Then, with the orders flying in on digital devices, they can leverage the wealth of information this data harbors to optimize their decision-making from the granular to the holistic level. As Bernhard puts it: “Grasp this interconnectivity, integrate multiple core systems and ensure data is flowing from one API to another to generate actionable insights”.