Hospitality has never been the most collaborative industry, but it turns out a change in attitude was only a pandemic away, writes Mark Calabro co-founder of Hungry Hungry.
Previously, most restaurateurs and venue owners would put their heads down and do their own thing. COVID-19 has given these operators a reason to observe what other businesses, both in and out of the industry, were doing and take on-board new ideas and unexpected partners. Suddenly it was apparent that survival is dependent on being adaptable to the changing needs of customers.
Of course, innovation has always been about finding a new way to meet customer requirements, but when change comes quickly, it’s up to the business to adapt quickly and sometimes the best way to do that is to collaborate. All COVID-19 has done is to accelerate the process and open the door for plenty of cross-industry opportunities.
Our powers combined
Collaboration isn’t just providing a product or service to a client – that’s just functionality. True collaboration is working with a partner to create beneficial outcomes that would not have been possible without the combination of skills, knowledge and systems.
For example, my business HungryHungry provides technology to venues that allows diners to scan a QR code, view a menu and order at their table. Venues already have payment systems set up. So how do we provide a solution that integrates the ordering and payment process without reinventing the wheel for each individual venue?
We have collaborated with a number of existing point-of-sale (POS) systems that many venues already use, including H&L POS and Doshii, to unify the procedure. By reaching out to the POS providers, we save venues the need to install a separate iPad and printer, dockets and screens, reducing the material costs and saving them time through automation, while also avoiding the unnecessary labour costs of integrating each system on site. Between us, we’ve saved our venues a lot of hassle setting up different systems and ensuring we understand the needs of their business.
Greater than the sum of its parts
At a macro level, we’ve yet to see the full benefits of collaboration, but I believe 2021 will see a trend towards outcomes that are greater than the sum of their parts. One practice I see emerging from mandatory contact tracing is complementary marketing and exceptional customer service.
For example, when you dine in a venue, you need to register your details on arrival in line with current government regulations. Plenty of businesses are using QR codes for that. What if, after submitting your details, your phone shows a digital menu and the day’s specials? What if you can order and pay that way? It would help maintain the health and safety of staff while freeing them from admin so they can devote themselves to customer service.
On a broader scale, this can help venues better serve their customers. For instance, the technology could discern your preferences as a diner, so instead of seeing 40 items on the menu, you see the six that you are most likely to select. Perhaps you see the whole menu, but the six are shortlisted for you based on previous selections.
This would also show venues their most popular items and help them to innovate with confidence, creating new meals with key ingredients. The data would be a kind of indirect collaboration between venues and diners: anonymous but valuable in aggregate to venues – and highly personalised for the diner.
Data is your friend
If you’ve ever gone for a meal with a group of people who have different dietary requirements, this is where this sort of data becomes your best friend. Technology can help generate a menu that filters for dietary requirements, only showing the items that diners can eat, which takes the work out of asking for the full list of ingredients and filtering each and every menu item. Collaboration between an ordering and review platform might then lead to curated suggestions for other menu items or venues to try based on diners with the same dietary requirements and/or similar preferences.
While it has been sad to say goodbye to some businesses over the past few months, the silver lining from the pandemic and subsequent shutdown has been the open-mindedness of different businesses from different industries to join forces; from innovative packaging to alternative delivery methods, technology, waste recovery and more. Smart collaboration has become a success factor in advancing both partners towards creating new products and services, and also introducing them to new markets. Together we can take on the year ahead.
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