Mr Yum attended The Big Hospitality Expo in London and had the privilege of hearing insights on restaurant technology from a panel of senior executives. Here’s what we learned from some of the best in the UK’s hospitality industry.
Scepticism is normal
With a variety of venues located around the Newcastle area, Ollie Vaulkhard, director of the Vaulkhard Group, admits he was initially sceptical about introducing pay-at-table technology into his outlets as he doubted the potential of a positive impact.
“I came into this with great scepticism, but I’ve been fascinated by the levels of uptake from customers. We simply put QR codes on the tables and we enjoyed far more engagement than expected. It’s been pain-free introducing the technology, and it is now an evolving part of our business,” Ollie Vaulkhard, Director Vaulkhard Group.
Tech can add value to the customer experience
Dominique Fernandes, head of operations at Mildreds, suggests she is brave enough to try anything that will deliver a great experience to the customer.
“I’ll try anything, but it can’t detract from the experience. Any form of technology has to fit into the flow of the service. We introduced pay at table, and some people like to pay this way while others don’t. I personally hate waiting for the bill, and this enhances our guests’ experience,” she says.
Tech success relies on staff
Dominique believes the key to the success of such technology is training the restaurants’ teams as they will need to support guests’ adoption of any customer-facing system.
This support is essential according to research commissioned by Mr Yum, which found 80% of people say they would consider ordering and paying for a meal at a venue through technology if there is a member of staff available to help. This has certainly been no problem at Mildred’s, where staff enthusiasm for the technology has been very high.
Fernandes says there was no effort at all required from management to gain buy-in from the teams. “It makes their life easier. It’s one less step for them to handle. They are still engaging with customers, in fact, there is more time for this, which makes our staff happier.”
Data enhances the customer journey
Another upside to adopting pay-at-table technology is that it provides data on customers, which Fernandes says has the most value when it is collated from a variety of sources and channels.
“It helps the most with marketing, but it can also help with the operations if the data can be correlated across the business. It will certainly help us in the future,” she says.
Amy Lau, head of marketing at Shake Shack, is certainly benefiting from collecting data and recognises the value of utilising technology. “We come from fine dining roots [Danny Meyer and Union Hospitality Group], and in the age of digital you can’t be afraid to adopt technology.”
Shake Shack collects data when customers connect to Wi-Fi, download their app, or place an order. “We’re using this to help with customisations, which customers now expect. And for marketing, we’re able to use relevant data. We don’t want to bombard them with irrelevant information. In the future I believe we’ll only shop with brands that really know us,” explains Lau.
She foresees the time when the various systems in Shake Shack are seamlessly linked and underpinned by rich data. “We want to give them the same experience wherever they are and to reward them for their custom,” she says.
Although Vaulkhard says he has been personally sceptical about the value data brings to his business, he acknowledges that his teams do successfully use data and they have an appetite for collecting more.
“You have to look at any way you can enhance your business and personalise the customer journey. Look at the last 10 years and where hospitality has come from. It will always evolve,” he says.