Food For Thought: 2019 - A year of both turbulence and optimism for the hospitality sector?

Our Sales and Partnership Manager, Paul Berryman brings us another 'Food for Thought' blog. This time he reflects back on 2019 and what it has meant for the pointOne and the wider hospitality sector. The themes of tech integration and automation, and allergen solutions have dominated as has the continued quest for driving efficient and unique customer experiences.

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Looking back over the last twelve months, 2019 has overall been a good year for pointOne right across our restaurant, pubs, theatres and venue markets, with the last six months seeing some exciting new installations and new development announcements for 2020.

Whilst the hospitality sector has been hit by high levels of political and economic uncertainty – and finally our exit from Europe starting on the 31st January 2020, it has certainly been an interesting year. A year full of conversations on how we harness technology to brace ourselves from the potential of labour shortage, squeezed profits and changing consumer trends.

At Restaurant and Takeaway Expo, one consistent conversation with chefs and operators was their struggle to get staff and the internal push for as much automation as possible across the customer and operation journey from care screens, inventory and stock management tools through to portion control – and of course allergens.

2019 Technology driven optimism

2019 was a year of numerous restaurant closures with many big brands such as Jamie Oliver and Patisserie Valerie being forced to close their doors. According to PwC, between January and June 2019, 153 restaurants, 167 pubs and bars, and 112 food-to-go closed.

However, our customers seem to have a positive outlook which supports the research our partner Kurve released last week, which found that 64% of hospitality operators surveys perceived their company’s future to be very optimistic, with a clear majority of these businesses investing in technology to stay competitive and meet new consumer needs and experiences.

Three topics consistently cropping up in relation to EPoS platforms throughout 2019 were:

  1. Allergen transparency and management – how do we stay compliant and keep our customers safe?
  2. How can we drive efficiency and create unique customer experiences?
  3. How can we create a stable and all-encompassing EPoS hub through application integration?

2019 The quest for tech-enabled allergen safety

Allergen information availability has always been an important element for any operator but in today’s new legal world of tough legislations, harsh legal repercussions and media frenzy, ensuring allergy management and information availability is an absolute necessity and one that must be waterproof. This year alone we have seen Byron and Pret a Manger fall victim to the consequences of not having a stringent enough allergy management policy.

This year, there have been few proposals and tenders pointOne have been involved in that have not specifically been asked to address in detail how our platform manages allergy control, from the point of guest ordering through to kitchen management to customer delivery. EPoS allergen control and management is now a critical feature, not an optional extra.

2019 The drive for efficiency and unique customer experiences

Millennials believe that “a new experience” is an important feature when choosing a place to eat, according to 53% of respondents  to a recent  CMS report.  With 52% saying they value unique food and 36% that they would pay more for outstanding service in a restaurant.

And it’s not just millennials heading this way. The desire to eat more healthily, ethically, conveniently and receive good service, now spans nearly all generations.

This year has seen the rapid rise of plant-based and ethically sourced food, alongside more operators wanting to introduce self-serve technology to compete with the success of McDonalds and other big brands.

In fact, many of the conversations I’ve had in recent months very much reflect the CMS report, which highlighted the technology improvements most wanted by consumers as:

  1. The ability to order food and drinks before arriving (47%).
  2. Paying via an app (44%).
  3. Ordering food electronically at the venue via kiosk or tablet (34%).

In addition, Kurve’s research findings that:

  1. Consumers would prefer to use a self-service kiosk over a cashier (41%).
  2. Operators state improving staff productivity as the key benefit of self-serve tech (65%).
  3. Consumers think fast food, pubs, cafés and restaurants should do more to reduce queues and wait times (63%).

Whether it is self-serve technology, advanced CRM loyalty, delivery or click & collect apps, sophisticated kitchen management systems, automation, customer care screens, portion control, allergen management through to inventory and stock management, online booking apps, mobile ticketing, payroll and staff management, 2019 has been the year of restaurant technology. More and more of our customers are wanting to create their perfectly integrated EPoS platform to drive efficiency, profitability, staff productivity and new customer experiences.

2019 The year of the integration challenge

Of course, introducing new technology for both the operation and customer requires ensuring you have all the right systems and applications – and today’s hospitality tech stake seems to get bigger and more challenging every year.

As an open platform, pointOne has always prided itself on its ability to integrate third party applications into its platform. And this year has seen an enormous amount of development work to advance the level of stable integrations we can provide to customers.

Roll-on 2020!

From a personal perspective, I’m very excited about the year ahead.  We have big advances in our Head Office feature planned, major consolidation and extension of our third-party integration platform, expansion of our integration consultancy team and the full project roll-out of Lucky Onion Group.

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year and successful 2020!