When Chris Sheppardson and his team at EP launched Foodservice Action magazine earlier this year, one of the objectives was to create a new narrative focused on the heart of hospitality. One significant impact on this narrative has been the introduction of ever-more sophisticated and innovative technology within the sector.
Whether back-of-house or customer-facing, technology is changing the way foodservice operators think about and manage their businesses, and in many ways, the nature of some of the job roles within it.
While technology presents a host of exciting opportunities, it also comes with its own unique set of challenges. Where once the passion and talent for great food and service provided the building blocks for a successful foodservice business, operators now need to widen their professional skill set to understand precisely what technology has to offer – and, of course, how it actually works. This means identifying where technology can bring value to a foodservice business in the short term, but it also requires a holistic long-term view to ensure different technologies can communicate with one another where they need to. For example, asking the right questions will reveal whether a technical handshake can be established between a supplier offering a comprehensive stock, ordering and recipe management system and one offering an electronic point of sale (EPoS) system.
Likewise, data captured via an app offers more scope and functionality if it can seamlessly integrate with other related platforms within the business. At IndiCater, we have partnered with Kafoodle, an app that helps customers find allergen and food intolerance-friendly places to eat. It links their data to our recipe software, which is used by operators to provide specific dish allergen information, as required by law.
It is unlikely that any one supplier will be able to fulfil all of a foodservice operator’s technology needs. As we move away from the more traditional methods of working (eg replacing Excel spreadsheets with online management software, or substituting paper-based mailshots with targeted electronic customer messaging), the progressive technical landscape offers a constantly expanding and complex range of tools and systems from which to choose, each offering expertise in its own field.
These tools and systems are far reaching and include apps that help customers book tables, pre-pay for meals, build loyalty points, track allergen data, monitor sugar intake, swipe and pay, EPoS systems, kitchen order and production systems, finance and profit management software, procurement software, employment software, stock, ordering and recipe management software, right through to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms. Finding a supplier who does it all is unrealistic, and if they exist then ‘Jack of all trades and master of none’ might well be the outcome.
But in today’s sophisticated technical arena, operators can connect best-of-breed tools and systems to create a fully integrated platform that works best for them. IndiCater works not only with app providers, but also seamlessly links with EPoS providers, cashless systems and accounts packages, offering a partnership approach that meets the needs of clients at a very detailed level.
The skill of the today’s foodservice operator will be in creating a technical blueprint for the business that identifies:
- Where technology can bring real benefits.
- What the return on investment should look like.
- Sourcing the best-of-breed specialist suppliers for each element.
- Ensuring that technical platforms can work together where they need to.
There is no doubt the narrative is changing in the hospitality industry and, for foodservice operators, technology will be at the very core of what emerges.
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