Saturday, 13 Decemeber 2014
Luddite Or Technophile?
Technology has changed the hospitality labour landscape
‘You Luddite’. That’s what I overheard one guest calling another at an industry lunch I attended recently. It was jovial banter, the result of one guest dismissing the value of Twitter while the other continually posted photographs of the food served during the meal. But it started me thinking about the rapid pace of change, particularly the impact of technology on the hospitality industry, and whether it has added value.
In the 1800s the Luddites rebelled against the introduction of machinery, fearful of machines replacing skilled workers and removing their livelihoods. There is no doubt that in our modern hi-tech world, technology has replaced many labour-intensive tasks with an abundance of efficient and cost-effective solutions. You don’t have to look far to see the evolution of highly sophisticated technical kitchen equipment such industrial scale combi ovens contributing towards the deskilling of many practical tasks, reducing kitchen headcounts and associated labour costs.
But in many cases, the advent of technology in hospitality has enhanced traditional manual roles, improving the way in which a task is carried out, making it more efficient and delivering added value not just to the company but to the customer as well. The hotel sector provides an excellent example of this with the early introduction of dynamic reservation systems used by staff to help manage room bookings. Prior to the birth of the internet such systems were only available at local level of course, but their far-reaching use now extends to online customer reservations; complex customer relationship management systems and marketing applications; yield management tools, etc.
In a similar way, the introduction of the hand-held point-of-sale device for waiting staff has helped to speed up customer service while providing advanced management information to the operator.
In many aspects, technology has changed the hospitality labour landscape, with a shift in the nature of many of the traditional roles. Where once a waiter took a customer’s order using a simple pad and pen, modern hand-held devices facilitate access to marketing tools which prompt waiting staff to encourage customers to trade up and utilise special offers; provide waiting staff with detailed dish knowledge such as allergen data; offer direct communications with the kitchen; allow a customer to pay at the table and so forth. Waiters no longer simply take orders; their role has changed and they now have the tools that can increase sales and take customer satisfaction to a new level.
In a similar way, back office software systems like ours at IndiCater that manage and record sales and purchasing data, stock, recipe and menu data, e-procurement, employment data, etc, have changed the roles of office administrators and clerks from data inputters to those more akin to skilled auditors and data analysts.
In these new roles, staff are auditing and analysing the end operational results, with technology providing the means for data to be processed in an automated and immediate way, linking systems together such as EpOS, payroll and accounts packages with platforms like IndiCater.
Of course there are areas where it could be argued that some of the most recent technical innovations are eating into the true meaning of hospitality, potentially attempting to replace customer service skills with automated processes. Is it a sign of progress in a restaurant where the customer can order and pay from their table using a built-in electronic device? Is it a sign of progress that a pub can have automated beer taps built into the bar tables and activated by a credit card? What do customers seek to satisfy when they visit a hospitality operation; can technology replace the importance of interactive customer service skills?
In my view, technology has a dual purpose in the hospitality sector and should be used to support the customer experience and to help ensure that businesses remain profitable. This might certainly change the nature of some of the traditional roles in hospitality; I wonder what the Luddites would make of such progress?
Can finances excel beyond Excel?
First published in EP Magazine Issue 46 July 2013
Row, column, other? The ubiquitous Excel is no longer the only option for spreadsheets and information tracking
In its various forms, Excel has been the most widely used spreadsheet program for the best part of 30 years. Millions of users have come to rely on the software program to help keep both their businesses and personal lives organised and on track.
In the hospitality sector, Excel has been traditionally used by operators to record and analyse trading data, whether for single-site or multi-site operations. When I ran our contract catering company back in the 1990s, operating a multi-million pound company with over 70 contracts, I could not have imagined running the business end of things without the use of multiple Excel spreadsheets to capture and bring together site trading data.
The challenges associated with relying on Excel to support a business, especially a cash-generating business, haven’t really changed since the inception of the software. Its two main limitations are that Excel is
primarily confined to use by a single user, although there are the beginnings of multi-user collaborative functionality; the data outputs (and inputs) are not in real time and, once data is copied into Excel and then manipulated, it is vulnerable to data integrity issues.
Today, there are much quicker and more advanced collaborative web-based business productivity tools available.
They are simple for all levels of employee to work with, can accept and interrogate live data from multiple users and offer real-time analysis, together with the associated operational benefits that this brings. However, if you took ten finance professionals from the hospitality industry and asked them what software they used in their business, most would
still likely say Excel.
So why is it that the love affair with Excel is such a strong one? Are those who have made the lovers’ leap to other platforms satisfied with their decision?
Traditionally, change has always been slow in the hospitality sector, often lagging behind other industries when it comes to different ways of working and approaching new innovations. You don’t have to
look far to see how the retail sector has led the way
in both EPOS technology and online purchasing and, in many ways, hospitality is still playing catch-up in both of these areas. Then there is the generation gap. Where static software packages such as Excel were once the ‘go to’ management data option, the millennials (18-34 year olds) think differently.
As the millennials enter the workforce market and take on more responsible and senior roles within the industry, they bring with them new ways of thinking. Brought up with sophisticated technology as the norm, where everything is instant and readily accessible, their expectations of management business tools are different from older professionals. Millennials want and expect management information to be live and accessible from any number of mobile devices. They trust, and indeed expect, the technology they use to provide the information they require to support them in making informed business decisions.
“Millennials want and expect management information
to be live”
Of course, there are those who have made the switch from relying on Excel to help them manage their business to those who are using web-based back office management systems which both capture and interrogatedata.
Trading information is entered into a secure system at site level, with immediate and live access available to anyone with authorisation within the business, helping to shape decision making. No longer do businesses have to wait for out of date Excel reports to tell them how their business is doing, or indeed
if there is an operational problem or issue. Action can be taken immediately and businesses adopting this route have consistently reported improvements to their bottom line of between three percent and fifteen percent.
There can be no doubt that the digital age in which we live is forcing change and this change is having an impact on how we both live and work. In my opinion, the winners will be those who embrace
the best of what’s available. Is there a place for Excel alongside online management software? Perhaps, but my money is on those who embrace new technology to help them run their businesses more efficiently and profitably, discovering new ways to excel.
New Business Development Director
IndiCater is delighted to announce the addition of Lucy Horner to the IndiCater team.
Lucy joins the company as Business Development Director. With extensive knowledge and experience of the hospitality sector, Lucy brings operational insights and expertise to her client facing role.
Originally craft trained, she has worked extensively in senior roles across the catering arena, starting out in restaurants and moving across into contract catering.
Lucy has worked with both small independents and larger corporates including ACMS, Rentokil Initial and ISS UK, performing operational roles and latterly developing her sales skills in the B&I, Education and FM marketplace.
In the past, Lucy has been a client of IndiCater’s and, as such, is ideally placed to share her first-hand experience of the opportunities and benefits that greater control can bring to businesses with the application of back office management systems.
IndiCater Supports Lexington’s Chosen Charity
IndiCater is delighted to donate the use of our back office management software to Paper & Cup, a new cafe initiative from the 'Spitalfield Crypt Trust', supported by Lexington - a long standing client of IndiCater’s.
The team from Lexington have been involved with helping to set up and run the 'Paper & Cup' project, offering intimate spaces in Shoreditch and Bow that offer a range of delectable coffee, books and treats, available throughout the day.
Paper & Cup is a not for profit social enterprise providing assistance for the homeless, those recovering from addiction and in poverty.
Named by The Sunday Times in 2011 as one of the ‘Best Companies to Work for’, Lexington support the project with their catering management expertise. In turn, IndiCater provide Paper & Cup with the software required to manage the back of house processes involved in running a commercial retail enterprise.
For more information about Paper & Cup, click here
Giving A Voice To The Artisan Baker
Thursday 14th March 2013
IndiCater were once again delighted to sponsor the latest in an on going series of Entrepreneurs Forums, in partnership with EP Magazine. The speaker was Tom Molnar from Gails Bakery.
Gail’s Bakery is one of a small number of businesses to have flourished despite the recent economic troubles in the UK.
As one of the co-founders of the company, Tom Molnar’s story is certainly an interesting one with a few twists & turns!
After studying “Productive Ecology” at Dartmouth College, he went on to become, among other things, a fish farmer! After a while however he joined the agricultural company Cargill as a commodities trader before eventually going on to work for the management consultancy company McKinsey in London. To read more about Toms story click here
Mike Day announced as speaker at HSMAI Conference for Hoteliers in February
The HSMAI Europe Annual Revenue Management Conference will take place on February 7th on the theme of Total Revenue Management and addresses the challenges in optimising revenues across all profit centres, including developing a cross departmental revenue management culture, sourcing the tools and technology available to support total revenue management programmes, and the implementation process. The conference will also cover the HSMAI Certified Revenue Management Training and qualification.
Thibaut Seillier – Corporate Revenue Manager Kempinski Hotels S.A., talks about his experience in rolling out a Total Revenue Management Programme with Kempinski.
Catherine Whittle – Managing Director Spa Partners talks about how revenue management is being applied to the Spa, the benefits and limitations
Stephen McManus – Former MD Sodexo Prestige, Food and Beverage Expert, walks us through Restaurant Revenue Management – A case study.
General Session speakers include:
Guy Barnes Senior Account Manager, IDeaS Revenue Solutions
Chris Cooper Group Revenue Director Rocco Forte Hotels
Dave Courteen Managing Director, Imagine Spa Management
Mike Day, CEO IndiCater Food and Beverage profitability management
AnneMarie Gubanski Taktikon
Paul King Regional Manager, Revenue Optimization EMEA at Sabre Hospitality Solutions
Heather Leisman, Managing Director EMEA HotelTonight
Paschal Nee, Co-Founder MTT, Mobile Travel Technology
Richard Oram, Product Manager, Micros Systems
Heiko Siebert, Vice President Distribution Moevenpick Hotels
Marta Varela, Global Director Revenue Management Meliá Hotels International
Educational sessions include the following speakers
Patricia Boo Senior Business Development Manager STR Global – Total Profitability benchmarking
Mario Bellinzona Vice President Global Sales Nor1 – The importance of a data-driven Upsell Strategy
Fredrik Önrup Managing Director Pingvinen – optimising menu profitability and menu engineering
Brian Reeves Managing Director Avvio – Increasing conversion rates through your web booking engine
TravelClick – optimising revenues through CRS Channel management and data solutions
RJ Friedlander CEO ReviewPro –Driving revenues from Guest reviews
Wilko Weber, Swiss Hospitality Solutions
Hieko Siebert Vice President Distribution Moevenpick Hotels
Warren Mandelbaum, Managing Director, Revenue Management Consultants
To register visit the conference web site
Mike Day, CEO of IndiCater, was once again invited by Oxford Brookes University to take part in their annual Dragons’ Den event in December.
As part of an undergraduate module entitled Entrepreneurship and Creativity in Hospitality and Tourism, led by Senior Lecturer Roberto Daniele, students face the daunting task of pitching their business ideas to panels of successful entrepreneurs.
Sixteen entrepreneurs including Mike, participated in the latest Dragons' Den, held on 13th December at the Bermondsey Square Hotel in London. Of 45 students on the module, Karen Hayes was the winner who picked up the Bespoke Hotels Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Her prize includes a £500 voucher to spend at any property in the Bespoke Hotels portfolio and £500 cash. Karen is determined to set up her business, entitled Reuniting Forces, which focuses on the reintegration of military personnel to their families and to society after challenging tours of duty.
Said Mike “This is such an excellent initiative, placing students in a realistic scenario where they have to share their passion and business rationale behind an innovative idea with those working in the industry. I always enjoy taking part, in a small way supporting the University as they develop and nurture industry talent for the future”.
IndiCater partners with Oxford Brookes University in Bacchus Mentoring Programme
Over 135 senior figures from the hospitality and tourism industry now offer formal mentoring support to students in the Oxford School of Hospitality Management. Drawing on their professional experience, and supported by training and on-line resources, the mentors provide dedicated support to all final year undergraduates and all postgraduates. IndiCater is delighted to support the programme, providing the software to facilitate undergraduates and mentors communicating with one another, and sharing resources. Lou Willcock, Director of IndiCater, is a graduate and Visiting Fellow of the University.
The students receive face-to-face guidance, they visit mentors in their places of work and are introduced to networks of contacts across the sector. The programme helps students understand the realities of management and leadership, gives them insights into their own strengths, weaknesses and development needs, and assists them in bridging the gap between higher education and graduate employment.
This year's launch event was hosted by the Lancaster London hotel on Friday 5th October. Attended by 120 students and 90 of the mentors, it included a 'speed-networking' session, discussions on maximising the benefit of mentoring relationships and time for mentors and mentees to plan for the year ahead.
The Manager of the Lancaster London, Andrew Bachelor, commented, "It was an honour for us to host this year's launch of the Bacchus Mentoring Programme. As a graduate of Oxford Brookes University myself, it is so encouraging to see the support that is being provided for this current generation of hospitality and tourism management students. The mentors, all of them influential figures from our sector, are dedicated to nurturing those who aspire to lead hospitality organisations. Being part of the Oxford School of Hospitality Management clearly provides students with a strong base from which to progress their careers."
The finale event of the programme, scheduled for April 2013, will be hosted by the Dorchester on Park Lane.
EP Entrepreneurs Forum – Rolf Munding , ‘Serial Entrepreneur’
Sponsored by IndiCater
26 October 2012
Hosted at The Commonwealth Club last Friday morning, the latest instalment of the EP Entrepreneurs Forum featured Rolf Munding as the key note speaker. From the beginning Rolf held everyone’s attention with the story of his life in business and his experiences as an entrepreneur across a wide variety of sectors. Rolf is, by anyone’s standards, a “serial entrepreneur”. With his fingers in many pies including hotels, restaurants, breweries, television production, shoe making and distribution, Rolf has a breadth of experience few can compete with.
To read the full article please Click Here
21 September 2012
Royal opening for Wivenhoe House and the Edge Hotel School
His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent KG has officially opened the newly-restored Wivenhoe House hotel, home of the Edge Hotel School, in Colchester.
The UK’s first hotel school where degree students combine their studies with work in a commercial luxury hotel, the Edge Hotel School is where the future leaders of the hospitality industry will learn their profession. IndiCater are delighted to be one of the founding sponsors at the School.
Describing it as “unique”, The Duke of Kent said: “I hope no-one underestimates the importance of vocational and professional training in this field.”
A partnership between the University of Essex, its academic partner Kaplan, and the Edge Foundation, the Edge Hotel School took its first students in June and July, allowing them to be involved in opening a new hotel.
Andrea Tye, 28, from Tiptree, Essex, who is studying for a BA in Culinary Management, said: “At the moment I am still really living the dream, everything I could have possibly have wanted in terms of a course and work experience is here.”
Andrea, who escorted the Royal visitor around the hotel, added: "It was really good to meet HRH The Duke of Kent. He seemed really interested in what we are doing." Martin Kilgariff, 20, from Folkestone, Kent, who also showed HRH around the public rooms and two of the bedrooms, said: “He found the whole idea of The Edge Hotel School extremely interesting. He was very keen to know of my experience in the hospitality industry.”
Students of the Edge Hotel School are working towards fast-track two year degrees, learning by doing through combining academic study with working in all areas of the hotel and restaurants, supervised by leading industry professionals. The hotel school curriculum has been developed in collaboration with employers and industry leaders and with industry needs in mind.
The eighteenth century Wivenhoe House, in Colchester, which was painted by John Constable, has undergone a £10 million-plus refurbishment, restoring it to its Georgian and Victorian grandeur.
The Duke of Kent met representatives of the three partners involved in establishing the Edge Hotel School, unveiled a plaque and signed the Visitors’ Book, before having lunch in the hotel’s Signatures Restaurant, prepared by Executive Chef Paul Boorman.
For more information about the Edge Hotel School click here
There will be many legacies left by London2012 when the Olympics reach their conclusion. For IndiCater our legacy will be to commit to growing the company FASTER through new contract success and excellence in client satisfaction; delivering a level of service that is HIGHER than our competitors; providing clients and customers with a back office software system that is STRONGER than the rest.
The new agreement will enable G4S to adopt IndiCater software on any future contract catering and soft FM site in a faster and more cost effective manner.