Hybrid Hospitality: Can the Industry Have the Best of Both Worlds?

by Gavin Peters, Chief Strategy & Marketing Officer at Onvi (www.onvi.com)

It’s no secret that the food services and hospitality industry has been lagging in digitalisation compared to other sectors such as retail. However, the challenges brought about by the pandemic has seen many traditional offline businesses such as pubs, bars and restaurants turn to technology as a sure-fire way to remain resilient and navigate the uncertainties during this period. Online ordering and contactless delivery services boomed; DIY meal-kits were sold online by everyone from pasta aficionados to Michelin star restaurants, and when the UK first eased restrictions in July 2020, we saw digital ordering and payment solutions being adopted at breakneck speeds.

Now, as things continue to ‘normalise’, the question is whether it’s back to the old ways or if the rate of digitalisation continue.While restrictions have been lifted in the UK and indoor dining has returned, challenge from ongoing staff shortages to supply chain issues continue to

debilitate the industry.The business-as-usual model will no longer work in the current operating environment; only those who are innovative and have a digital strategy in place will be well positioned to welcome the ‘next normal’.

Top priorities should be:

1.To streamline operating procedures and enhance delivery capabilities to reduce reliance on service staff.
2.Enable the ability to adjust menus in case of supply shortages and cater to shifts in customer habits and preferences.
3.Attract and retain customers and maximise throughput of sales at peak times.

STREAMLINING OPERATION PROCEDURES

A hybrid approach of physical and digital transformations can help streamline operations to maximise efficiency, especially with reduced staffing. Many operators have seen benefits from COVID-induced initiatives and would like to continue offering outdoor dining, takeout and delivery services, and customer self-service options. Combined with con- tactless ordering and payment options, operators should consider making physical layout changes.These could include adjusting traffic flow for indoor and outdoor table services, adding ‘Pronto Pickup’ lanes for take- out and delivery orders, or allowing customer self-service. Implementing automation wherever possible can increase productivity while the contactless options provide peace of mind for customers still hesitant to return to dining indoors.

REDUCE RELIANCE ON SERVICE STAFF

Automating the ordering process allows customers to save time by accessing the menu and ordering directly via their own devices. It also allows operators to provide great, fast service with less staff.The time shaved off taking orders and putting it through the till can see the aver-

age member of front of house staff increase productivity to the equivalent of adding an additional three hours to their shift.This means those businesses with a reduced headcount can continue to offer excellent service, allowing staff the breathing room to stop and engage with customers, be hospitable and make sure guests get the most out of their visit. Staff are still vital for creating a personable hospitality experience, but businesses can now benefit from automation in a way that wasn’t previously possible.

MANAGING INVENTORY AND INCREASING SALES

With no more restrictions, businesses should now focus their efforts on maximising sales throughput with creative inventory management and upselling mechanisms. On average, companies see a 30 percent uplift in sales via digital channels versus traditional ordering. Effective marketing levers could include just-in-time offers featuring the most popular items or pushing offers for items in stock as a measure of inventory management, especially as food supply issues may continue.

DIGITALISATION BEYOND THE PANDEMIC

Innovative technology solutions can play a pivotal role in transforming how hospitality businesses operate as we know it and contribute significantly to the economic recovery of the sector.This was once beyond the reach of smaller independents that make up 80 percent of the industry. They can now equally have the tools to take payments, gain actionable customer insights, and create promotions that appeal to their customers.

In order for businesses to survive and thrive beyond the pandemic, it’s a case of out with the old and in with the new – future proofing your business with a model to maximise profitability whilst providing a great customer service.