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3 F&B stalwarts on embracing technology to deliver better customer services

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Technology touches every facet of our lives and one place we’re seeing use more and more technology is in the restaurant industry. Mobile devices on the table, online reservations, social media and new payment methods – technology has infiltrated this industry like never before. The fast-changing developments in this arena will determine the fate of many restaurants, regardless of what’s on the menu.

Foodservice Bureau’s Nivedita Jayaram Pawar spoke to industry stalwarts on the role of technology in the F&B sector and the objectives that are most important when considering investment in new technology.

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11 Zorawar Kalra, Founder & Managing Director, Massive restaurants Pvt. Ltd.

 

How do you see the role of technology in F&B?
As in any business, technology plays a crucial part in streamlining numerous processes, especially at the back-end, even in the hospitality industry. Be it procurement, supply chain management, systems alignment, payroll management, reservations, customer relationship management and so on, technology today has to offer a wide range of solutions, which helps in effective inventory management as well as managing cost efficiency.

Which are the technologies impacting F&B business?
If I had to select the most notable of them, it would be customer interface functions – feedback, order taking and execution and billing, apart from auditing programmes.

How are you using technology in your restaurants?
Massive Restaurants has a very strong back-end management system in place. The system comprises operational solutions like our POS systems, the material management system as well as systems supporting our payroll, finance and auditing management. All these systems being extremely crucial, they have to work in cohesion for smooth and effective daily operations of the organisation.

Which tech innovations would you like to see in the near future?
Technology is changing with every passing second and there is improvisation happening across all platforms. While there are some extremely effective systems in place, the one thing missing is their seamless amalgamation into a single solution offering a holistic resolution. For example, there are some extremely effective customer management and engagement systems. However, because they aren’t able to set up a seamless collaboration with other systems for whatever reason, there is a gap in effective recording of guest preferences / history for future references. Similarly, there are gaps in collaboration among various other back-end systems as well.

Which are the important objectives when considering investment in technology?
The biggest objective while investing in any form of technology is that it needs to solve the purpose it is meant for, while offering end-toend solution to the user without any hindrance.

1. Zorawar Kalra, Founder & Managing Director, Massive res...

22 Rahul Singh, Founder & CEO- The Beer Café


How do you see the role of technology in F&B?
Technology is touching every facet of our lives and more restaurants in the industry are investing in systems to increase revenues as well as provide a better dining experience to guests.In our enterprise, we have more than a dozen technology partners that work behind the scenes and manage a considerable amount of work.Technology not only helps us to complement traditional methods of operations but also makes us relevant in the ever-changing consumer world.

Which are the technologies impacting F&B business?
From targeted social media campaigns, digital menu boards to online ordering apps, technology is taking over the industry. Customer mapping is an emerging trend, which is gaining popularity. With the relevant software, one can track usage, customise engagement and create focused marketing strategies. Understanding and mapping customer loyalty and needs helps the brand to identify weaknesses and turn them all into a “wow” experience for the guest.

How are you using technology in your restaurants?
For our Beer Café outlets and their operations, we have partnered with i2e1. It offers instant and easy connectivity to high-speed, reliable and secure Internet services. Our aim is to build a connected ecosystem where information is available to everyone, at the right time and place, to enable better and faster decision-making. It also helps us to track customer preferences and usage behaviour, customise promotions and advertise to frequent and infrequent customers, capitalise on the low business hour and thereby
increase operational efficiency while providing customers a great beer experience!

Talview is another technology that we use for hassle-free video-based assessments in hiring. It helps with data for hiring analytics and talent Engagement. We have implemented Zomato’s point of sale system Zomato Base across all our outlets in India. By seamlessly integrating operational solutions such as menu management and remote inventory management into a single system, Zomato Base makes our day-to-day functioning incredibly efficient. This platform is built to provide real time outlet-level analytics, which allows us to plan our supply chain better and provide benefits to our guests through effective promotion and profiling. The best part is that all of this can be done remotely and in real time, which is a huge convenience for a business owner on the move.

For the consumers, we have recently introduced an augmented reality-based feature through our app and a tie up with Blippar. A first in the industry, the ‘Know Your Beer’ campaign helps beer enthusiasts to learn more about their favourite brews. We also launched a merchandise line called ‘Beerosphere’, which comprises more than 30 products. Some of them such as Spin Chill, Sonic Foamer and Chill Puck are patented. Our app- based loyalty programme ‘Brew Miles’ is another great initiative, which helps us to connect directly with consumers and keep them abreast with the latest events and developments at The Beer Café. We also have Getsu, a peer to peer “One Click” gifting platform, which enables users to gift and receive beer from friends.

Tell us one technological innovation that your business thrives on?
Customer loyalty is the single most important driver of growth and profitability. Loyalty programmes incentivise and drive beneficial customer behaviour like brand evangelism. The Beer Café app was thus designed and created to engage customers, drive loyalty and grow revenue. The user interface is clean and simple with graphics that tempt you to head on over for a chilled mug. It offers a personal channel of communication to interact with customers and receive their feedback. We can also announce offers, menu updates, promote events, give directions to stores and monetise the brand on app via push notifications.

The app has over 40,000 downloads and out of which 25,000 beer enthusiasts are very active on Brew Miles. The programme is designed to reward loyal Beer Café patrons with gifts worth up to 30 per cent of the amount spent. It has been extremely successful with almost 18.2 per cent of our sales awarded in points for our guests. The app has allowed the company to understand customer spending, redemption of points, create more accurate and targeted marketing strategies and encourage repeat visits.

Which tech innovations would you like to see in the near future?
More of augmented reality – I would like to see the integration of digital information with live video and user environment. By recognising a visual picture, this technology blends new information and displays the virtual result in real time, thereby producing extraordinary experiences. Having an AR platform for the restaurant helps you add more value to the customer interaction and the possibilities of adapting it are endless – from menu to specific marketing campaigns.

Which are the important objectives when considering investment in technology?
It is important to determine whether the cost will be more than offset by the revenue increase. Once that financial calculation is found to be favourable, then consider the benefits to both the employees and customers, taking into account their perceptions of the technology’s effectiveness. Without those elements in place, the technology faces dim prospects no matter what its prospective financial benefits are.

2. Rahul Singh, Founder & CEO- The Beer Café

33 Sanjay Vazirani, CEO & MD of Foodlink Services India Pvt. Ltd.


How do you see the role of technology in F&B?
Technology plays the role of an “enabler” in F&B to improvise the way restaurants do business, be it the back-end or front of the house. The benefits come from communalisation of critical data among suppliers, manufacturers, packers, wholesalers and retailers. It means doing whatever is necessary to minimise losses, opportunity costs and using information systems as a tool. Such critical data encompasses point-of-sale information, inventory stock, demand signals, constraints and in-transit notifications. It also helps in the creation of binding standards and protocol for collective performance.

Surrounding this central part of the technology ecosystem, you have loyalty, mobile payments, employment management, and supply chain management. However, its effectiveness depends on how much operators understand what they want and how they can utilise the technology to its optimum level.

Which are the technologies impacting F&B business?
Technology has entirely changed and systemised supply chain policies, which have led to better inventory and control. Operators have got solutions to kitchen throttling, for fastening and standardising processes, and for better time management of the employees. Restaurateurs are also using options like commissaries and central kitchens, off-site call centers and second cook lines.

Technology has even led to more efficient automated guest management and relationship services. Ordering, payment, reviews, loyalty – it’s all gone digital. Convergence of mobile technology and social media has also brought consumers closer and has made it possible for markets to understand consumer behaviour and needs better.

How are you using technology in your restaurants?
We make use of the best technologies to streamline deliverables, improve the supply chain tactics and scale up businesses easily with the help of advanced digital strategies. This includes software for POS, table management, reservations, ordering via tabs, guest feedback, data management, report generation, F&B and cost control. We also make use of restaurant related technology offered by third parties for managing marketing campaigns, building sales and driving traffic, followed by consumer engagement.

We have deployed a full fledged enterprise resource planning software, which allows us to use a system of integrated applications to manage the business and automate many back office functions related to technology, services and human resources. Our ERP software integrates all facets of POS, material management, sales and accounting. We are currently implementing the kitchen display system (KDS) in our restaurants, which allows kitchen orders to display on large screens as opposed to a physical kitchen printer that prints receipts. A KDS eliminates order inaccuracies. It increases kitchen effi ciencies by keeping track of all of the different tickets and quickly identifies the ones that need to be prioritised. It is an effective way to make operations more effi cient and move orders more quickly. It also enables an improved inventory management by allowing automatic monitoring of inventory levels and order volume.

Which tech innovations would you like to see in the near future?
There are already various innovations that are yet to be exploited completely and they can surely impact the business in more positive ways than we have known till now. Having said that, it’d be great to see advancement in technology that can facilitate predictive ordering, purchase suggestivity and guidance based on guest behaviour.

Which are the important objectives when considering investment in technology?

One must keep in mind the cost benefits, ROI, cause and effects of using the technology, predictions for future trends and the adaptability of the technology with the ever evolving demands.

3. Sanjay Vazirani, CEO & MD of Foodlink Services India Pv...
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