By Kunal Sawhney, CEO of Kalkine (www.kalkine.co.uk)
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the world as we knew it before. Life, as it was in 2019 is increasingly looking like a distant past. Even as countries are coming out of lockdowns and social distancing norms, there is once again rising paranoia about several mutant variants.The UK is in the grips of fear of Delta and Lambda variants.
Just as visible signs of a world moving out of the woods were emerging, there is again fear that worst is still not behind us. Several businesses that were consumer facing had to bear the worst of Covid’s economic fallout.The aviation, hospitality, and tourism industries were most impacted. Restaurants and pubs remained closed in the UK for over a year.The nature of the virus is such that it makes one sceptical of human interface and the hospitality industry sustains on human contact only.
COVID AND INNOVATION
The pandemic, therefore, has forced the industry to innovate and reimagine various aspects of the food and beverage business. From con- tactless payments to apps like JustEat or even booking an online table, technology has helped restaurants become more accessible and, at the same time, find other avenues of making a profit.
To ease the restaurant experience, several new technologies have been incorporated. An app named Billa offers a series of services like a 3D menu, a speedy payment option that could help customers limit human contact during dining, and the option of call for assistance.The app also gives consumers access to incentives, deals on restaurants, and rewards for loyalty.
Thailand has innovated to build a cleaning robot that occupies the Central Food Hall. In Colombia, Group Exito restaurant has virtual dinner dummies that occupy seats in order to force social distancing. In Europe, vending solutions have found more acceptance post Covid. Britain also got its first pizza vending machine in Bedminster’s Pizza Bella.
CUSTOMER DATA TO BE KEY
Technology is also being incorporated by restaurants and hotels to redesign their websites. Inn Collection Group has come up with an option for accessibility in the website’s navigation bar to help those with disabilities. On clicking it, customers can have access to an audio description of the website, change the language and colour scheme, and increase the text size of the website.
Another website called Stevie has only used technology to create its food business by offering consumers attractive discounts through a discount app. Restaurants are also relying on technology to manage inventories. They are using technology to maintain accurate stock levels, allowing them more immediate visibility of their assets. Employees can view the inventory levels with the help of a device and directly submit them, which makes the whole process more efficient.
Moving towards technological solutions help in easing consumers and offer alternatives to their fears about social distancing and hygiene. Customer data that is gathered from various apps can provide a big opportunity to the hospitality industry. More and more quick-service restaurant chains like McDonald’s, Costa, and KFC are pushing customers to order through their apps. Gathering data and using it to understand consumer behaviour could give chains an advantage against their competitors.
In a post-Covid world, technology would be the key to revival of the hospitality sector.Technology-driven innovations would be crucial to ease customer paranoia. It is important that the hospitality industry make investments to up their technology back up to help it ward off any future catastrophe.