Hospitality technology: Enhancing the customer’s experience during their visit

Swish kit: EPoS systems can free up time for staff to help deliver a more personable experience for customers

The world of technology is, by its very nature, driven by innovation and change. Ordering room service through smartphones, dining with on-table touchscreens and browsing drinks lists on iPads are not visions of the future, they are happening right now. 

As the first part of this feature proves,technology is transforming the hospitality industry in terms of the experience that an operator can offer – even before the customer has arrived. But once you’ve reeled that customer in, how can technology help to improve things during their visit or stay?

It would perhaps be best to start with the huge, pulsating brain at the centre of all modern-day restaurants and pubs – EPoS. From taking and relaying orders to monitoring tables and feeding staff upselling prompts, the right Extended Point of Sale system can improve a business’s efficiency and generate additional revenue opportunities.

And, more crucially, it can help your business deliver better customer service.

So says James Humble, commercial director at Tevalis– EPoS solutions provider for the hospitality industry with a client portfolio including Mark Hix Restaurants and Alan Murchisons 10 in 8 fine-dining group.

“EPoS systems can increase revenues, increase retention and allow you to upsell,” explains Humble. “Yes, the initial investment is greater, but it’s a long-term investment in the infrastructure for your business to increase customer service levels and revenues.

Improving customer service

“Moreover, it can really boost your customer service levels and help you stand out from the crowd due to the efficiency it can give you from the front-of-house to the kitchen. With our system, for example, you can send specific messages to the kitchen about timings, or about a particular guest’s requirements.

“This means that your front-of-house staff are on the floor serving customers, rather than walking backwards and forwards to the kitchen which is a waste of time. This then gives them more freedom to actually talk to customers and upsell.”

Clive Consterdine, the director of sales and marketing at fellow EPoS provider Zonal, agrees that this increased efficiency and productivity is now crucial for restaurant and bar operators.

“We've all been there – when we’re sat in a restaurant or pub wondering when we’re going to be served, and the manager knows nothing about it,” says Consterdine. “With the right systems in place, you’ll know when the food’s gone through to the kitchen; when the chef starts cooking it, when he’s cooked it and when it’s in the pass.”

London-based independent bar group Grand Union has seen the business benefits of a new EPoS system first-hand, having installed an ‘Aztec’ system from Zonal last year. 

Kitchen & table management

“The Zonal system has transformed the way the company runs, says managing director Adam Marshall. “Everything is more transparent; it’s easy to see when people are doing well and likewise when there is something not quite right. Having a professional EPoS system gives customers the confidence that the operation of the business is equally professional.  

“All aspects of the business are affected – from pricing to products, HR, accounts, stock control, operations and time and attendance.”

Alongside these EPoS systems, the right kitchen and table management software can also help to improve the speed of service and even the quality of food, further enhancing the customer experience.

As Ashley Sheppard, group commercial director for Call Systems Technology(CST), advises: “With an advanced EPoS system in the middle, you can rely on that to take the order, which is sent through to the kitchen.

“The real engine room of any restaurant is its kitchen - providing you can get that and the front door running efficiently, then everything else will fall into place.”

CST is the strategic partner for QSR Automations,which provides software and hardware solutions for restaurants – one of which is its ‘ConnectSmart’ suite of restaurant automation products.

'Huge impact'

“With ConnectSmart, you’re getting customers sat efficiently and the food is prepared at the right time and delivered to the customer at the optimum temperature,” adds Sheppard. “Speed of service goes through the roof and return on investment will be below six months.

“What we’re working towards now is having a fully automated, paperless kitchen.”

Dishoom, the Bombay café concept with two restaurants in London, recently implemented QSR’s ConnectSmart system in its Covent Garden site. Director Kavi Thakrar explains some of the benefits it has brought for the business.

“The ConnectSmart system has had a huge impact,” says Thakrar. “It has made every area of our operation more efficient, from the kitchen to the front of house. Our customer service is better, our table turns are up 30 to 40 per cent and food quality is excellent. We’re getting the numbers of covers without feeling the pain.

“Our staff are happier and so are our customers. Plus, it’s helped us increase our sales by about £2,000 per week.”

Hotel apps

While hotels will have their own point of sale and management systems in place, the big technological development in this sector that has helped with the ‘during’ part of the customer’s journey has been the use of apps and mobile devices to make use of hotel amenities.

One example of this is Cardola- a service that allows hoteliers to create a multi-functional app which makes it possible for guests to access a whole host of information relative to their stay, like where the nearest restaurants are in the area as well as make bookings for in-house services such as spa treatments. 

“Hotels are all about providing service and our application is all about that,” explains Cardola’s founder Tim Butterworth. “From our own international research, when there’s a device in a hotel room, 76 per cent of people use that device at some point during their stay.

“Our application’s cloud-based. You can order room service, or request something from the store across the road – we don’t care where the end point is.

Mobile & cloud-based tech

“If you’re a limited-service hotel, then you might not have that expertise with the concierge, but the app could go through to a ‘virtual’ concierge to supply information back to the guest – all from the same app.

“And for the customer, they can choose whether they want to use it or not – having access to an app doesn’t stop them picking up a phone, or talking to reception. The application is a portal; to the various hotel service that you already have on offer.

“It allows the people that want to use the technology to use it, but it doesn’t mean that the hotel is going to reduce the level of service from the concierge, or from the butlers - it compliments it.”

This takes us to a look into the future. As Cardola makes use of mobile devices and cloud-based technology, so the likes of EPoS and other business management solutions begin evolving onto handheld devices, bringing with it an increase in mobile ordering.

As Lesley Corr, branch manager at Posera Software – which owns the ‘all-in-one’ EPoS solutions provider Maitre’D– points out: “Even in the last five or six years, the use of technology in the hospitality industry has changed quite dramatically.

The future...

“We’ve had more and more of a demand on mobile ordering. For the diner, it quickens up the order process which in turn streamlines the process on the floor. The server can take food and drink orders from the tablet.

“The servers will therefore be more inclined to upsell as they have all the information about certain products at the touch of a button. And for the restaurateur it therefore becomes more about upselling and increasing spend per head.”

Tim van den Branden, director of EPoS hardware specialist Sigma Touch Solutions,echoes Corr’s views, adding that ‘EPos is now becoming less of a reporting tool but more of a marketing tool’.

“Everything is of course becoming more and more mobile,” adds Van den Branden. "A current EPoS system allows the business to really know their customer, rather than just being one of 500 on a database. It can also turn the customer into a loyal customer, closing the 'marketing loop'.

“In the future, I think the customer will actually begin taking more control over their experience with further developments in self-ordering and table bookings through mobile devices. In turn. the restaurant will be able to focus more on the ‘experience’.”

Find out tomorrow how technology can improve the customer experience after their visit.  For all our articles on hospitality technology click here.

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Comments (1)

Joel Batki - 28 Feb 2013 | 11:33

Mobile ordering already exists.

I have already used my mobile phone for food ordering at some restaurants in European countries and it was fun, fast and easy. Love the solution of IzyMenu because it lets me translate the menu before ordering and I don't need to download any apps beforehand. You should cooperate...

28-Feb-2013 at 11:33 GMT

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