Akansha Pandey (firstname.lastname@example.org)
As per a report by Mordor Intelligence, the global digital transformation market was valued at USD 998.99 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach a value of USD 2744.68 billion by 2026, at a CAGR of 17.42% during the forecast period of 2021-2026. Asia Pacific is leading the pack, growing at the highest CAGR over 2021- 2026. Factors such as changes in consumer demands towards preferring fast, affordable and easily accessible food options have led to a transformation in the food and beverage industry, with market leaders leveraging advanced technology to scale operations and help companies stay relevant in a dynamic market environment.
Nowadays, most of the F&B businesses either start-ups or established units are leaving no stone unturned in pumping money into technology to automate processes. Undoubtedly, technology is the way forward to scale up or stay ahead in the game and make more money out of the efforts as well as the investments. Therefore, today F&B brands are looking at an integrated technology software which eases the different requirements of a business – from point of sales to menu management, back office, inventory management, fraud control, financial accounts, loyalty campaigns, supply chain management and even employee payroll.
ADAPTATION OF TECHNOLOGY
Five years back, brands were a little hesitant about whether or not they should invest in technology. They used to start up with manual systems of accounting and gradually as the business progressed, they would invest in technology. But in today’s scenario, also with the new generation coming into the forefront of business, owners are pretty much confident that from day one processes should be automated in order to maintain transparency and generate profits early on. “No matter whether it’s a small technology system or local software, the technological automation is ensured from the time they start up. Brands are no more shying away from technology and are willing to invest money in technology more than ever. They have indeed understood that technology will take them a long way,” says Nilesh Shah, Co-founder, RanceLab.
Talking about the acceptance of technology post-COVID, Neha Khandelwal, Co-founder, UpSale Suite shares that the F&B industry is wholeheartedly appreciating technology because after COVID the competition has grown much more intense in the domain. Brands now want to get the customer data and stand out from the crowd with a unique identification in their branding. F&B brands are heavily investing in technology and even customers are smart enough to accept it. Customers look out for convenience and want a minimal human touch. F&B brands are utilising this move to ensure a smart experience and customer delight. She says, “Post COVID F&B businesses have gone through a roller coaster ride. Today, installing technology is way more affordable than a human resource. Somewhere or the other businesses are accepting it more than ever after COVID because they have realised that they need to be smarter in terms of technology and get the first-mover advantage to attract and retain the right target audience.”
Neeren Tewari, Director, MyDigiMenu adds that brands are looking at return on investment. Technology is an investment and once it is properly executed, the return versus the investment is way higher. There is also a myth attached to technology that it is a pricey ballgame but it’s minuscule to the spending on conventional ways. It’s just a feeling that people have but it is not true, he stresses adding, “Especially with the SAAS platforms, people no longer need to develop their own software. If brands are opting for SAAS service, then they are basically paying the subscription fee. It’s not expensive, rather it is more cost-effective.”
RULING TECHNOLOGY TRENDS
Leveraging technology to have a smart customer database in place followed by customer feedback, are the biggest trends these days, highlights Khandelwal. All businesses want to have their own database of the customers and get on-point customer feedback. In the restaurant industry, generally, brand owners have two to three other businesses. So the owners are unable to focus 24/7. In such cases, the business owners who have invested lakhs of money to set up a restaurant, need to know the feedback remotely. This makes feedback management very significant to know and retain a customer.
“If the customer is happy he is going to come back, if he is not happy, businesses need to know why to site solutions to the customer instantly. If feedback is taken on a manual basis, the staff feels threatened by the negative reviews which are at times not passed on to the owner. Technology enables a business owner to be absolutely connected with the outlet even on the go. Owners can see both the negative and positive reviews and plan accordingly. Thus, businesses are investing in technology which is helping them to know their customer and gain maximum feedback from every customer. Maintaining an accurate customer database is equally good in the long run. If I have a database, I can reach out to the customer again. With a WhatsApp campaign, the brand can pass on a complimentary dessert coupon to get the customer back,” she exclaims.
Digital video menus are one big trend that has been able to help the F&B outlets to upsell the food by presenting it in the best way possible. The easy to use interface of a digital menu creates a fluid experience that keeps the guests engaged and ordering for more! It is emerging as a great tool for enhancing sales and even upselling.
“Brands these days are eliminating the human factor in trying to make people understand what a signature item is all about. 90 per cent of the time the waiter is giving the standard reply and in order to play a safe bet, the customer eventually orders the dish that he understands well. Ultimately, the signature item on which the outlets have invested in goes for a toss. They don’t sell the majority of the time as guests don’t relate to it. The two-line description is not good enough for the customer whereas a video menu instils confidence in the customer about ordering a fancy dish on the menu. Simultaneously, digital menus are also enabling in capturing profiles and getting the social media handles of the guest,” states Tewari.
Shah feels that WhatsApp commerce is the latest trend. “WhatsApp Commerce is the new big thing. Gone are the days of QR codes. Customers have already learned to scan a QR code and make their payments or scan a code and see a menu and place an order. In the present times, the trend is moving more towards WhatsApp. You can have your outlet running from your WhatsApp mobile app. People can place dining orders, pick up orders and delivery orders. Now WhatsApp also has a payment gateway. This tool which was very much popular for communication is getting converted into a commerce platform. Whatsapp commerce is the new in thing these days and people are using it at their best. Whatever new customer we have on board, nearly 20% of them are available on WhatsApp commerce and the trend is picking up with time,” he outlines.
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