Many thanks to the Propel team for posting my brand and digital opinion piece. Propel is the leading food and beverage trade e-news service reaching over 12,500 industry contacts - from CEOs to baristas - every working day.
The digital landscape has changed dramatically in the past 20 years and is now filled with independents offering commercial technology solutions to hospitality brands that can quickly and cheaply transform the way they work. I’ve just helped successfully rejuvenate the Café Rouge brand for Casual Dining Group and have worked with brands including Strada, Pod, Chop’d, Belgo, Bella Italia, Searcys, The Arts Club, YO! Sushi as well as Chelsea FC across all brand touchpoints for the past ten years, including digital. Each one had its own IT and technology systems regarding web server/hosting, e-commerce system, apps and applications, EPOS, CRM/database, social media, email, e-bookings etc.
Four billion people today have access to the internet and digital is the best brand gateway for communications in terms of speed of set up and cost efficiency for proving return on investment. As someone who also used to run a top digital ad agency and oversee all business-to-business solutions for Microsoft for many years, I know how millions of pounds can be spent and a huge chunk of business budget can be potentially wasted on each area, for large and small operators.
I’m currently in the throes of setting up on my own as a brand consultant, so even I need a website/email/e-commerce system set up fast, and at a realistic price. Doing my research on emerging technologies, I’ve discovered there are many new excellent small systems and applications launching across the hospitality industry right now by new independent companies, at very reasonable prices, which I can now share with you.
My favourite “fast” app is Flypay, which lets you pay at the table directly, negating the need for a waiter, which I recently experienced at Wahaca. Flypay works with Apple to deliver a range of mobile solutions to enable customers to say goodbye to all the hassles that get in the way of having a great time. So, no more scrums at the bar or trying to catch the elusive waiter’s eye. No more painful mental arithmetic trying to split the bill seven ways.
Flypay solutions include “Pay at Table”, which reduces the payment process from an industry average of 10.5 minutes to under one minute; “Pay at Bar”, which lets customers set up a tab via a mobile app; and “Order at Table”, which automatically logs an order to the kitchen as well as “Order and Collect”, which lets customers order their takeaway meal via the app, then jump the queue, because their food is ready waiting when they arrive. The system also includes loyalty and Flypay is currently in Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Chilango. At a small fee for set up and a nominal percentage of the business, it’s a game changer.
Meanwhile my favourite touchscreen ordering system is by the Robot Pub Group, which I had great fun interacting with at the “Thirsty Bear” pub in Waterloo, London, last week. Ali, the founder, started the business because of a major personal frustration at slow service in busy pubs and a desire to skip queues and keep a table whilst ordering beers.
Perhaps, also very suited to a tech brand like YO! Sushi or an urban pizza company, the on table screen “Robot” mini television-style touchscreen running in this pub is fantastic and fun. Customers can also enjoy the benefits of ordering cocktails and even choosing songs on the jukebox via the “Robots” at a very low cost. Ali says: “We are also launching a cloud-based EPOS now as well, so sites can run with what they already have and get up and running with just £500 worth of kit and a monthly fee.”
Digital PR agency Threepipe reports food and restaurant brands are also increasingly working with social media influencers, rather than traditional media, and Instagram is currently the biggest brand growth area for them and their clients. Check out their client case study on https://vimeo.com/171573452, which helped amass 27,000 Instagram followers. I’ve also had the pleasure of working with “symmetry breakfast”, led by self-styled start-up foodie Michael Zee, who has a staggering 500,000 Instagram followers and has just launched his own cookbook.
Meanwhile, a top online food retailer confided to me it had just moved away from a major industry e-commerce solution to the simple “Shopify” rental style hosting and e-commerce provider as it made far more long-term commercial sense. Also, its webstore hosting costs are now almost nil, saving them thousands of pounds a year.
In conclusion, tech brands and new innovative solutions are launching at a fast growth spurt and restaurants are choosing many different approaches to their IT decision making. It’s a fast changing landscape and the benefits of partnering with a new boutique independent tech brand is of course the lower cost, collaboration in software growth, ownership of data and ability to move fast.
While the major tech players remain a safe bet because of their big brand expertise, access to extensive partnerships and databases plus the confidence of experience – the choice is yours. I’ve personally chosen a simple free off-the-shelf website design solution from Wix for my own website and, with the help of a very organised freelance digital designer essmacdee.co.uk, have launched www.ghbrand.co.uk at a very low cost and the entire process has been simple and straightforward.