Corporate caterers must quickly implement technology and strategies to adapt to social distancing and safety and cleaning protocols, says Peter Moore, CEO of EPoS and payments specialist ItsLolly
1. Pre-order and collect
Online ordering and pre-order and collect technologies have played a huge part for hospitality in ‘lockdown culture’ and there will be a continuation of this trend into the workplace. Even before the crisis, 40 per cent of UK workers with a canteen said they would visit more often if the service was faster or they could pre-order their food and pick up without queuing.
Customers who were previously reluctant to use apps or order online have become well-versed in using technology. Office and factory workers will choose to pre-order to save time and reduce close contact in queues and dining halls.
Some caterers are enabling employees to pre-order food from outside the office or within the staff canteen to be delivered to their desks.
2. Going cashless
Given the higher likelihood of transmitting the virus through cash, many businesses have implemented cashless environments, and the cashless limit was increased in April from £30 to £45.
Reducing cash use, especially within busy, high-turnover corporate catering environments is important. The use of mobile and contactless payments should be encouraged. Not only do these types of payment reduce contact with surfaces by multiple people, they also speed up transactions, reducing numbers in queues and increasing footfall.
Self-serve technology enables high-quality service with reduced staff working on front-of-house duties. Higher footfall and faster payments require more operational staff so employees can be moved to preparation and back-office roles. This reduces close contact with large numbers of people and improves speed and quality of service.
Additionally, the touchscreens can be fitted with anti-microbial screen protectors to reduce the build-up of bacteria and germs.
Self-serve systems should be supported by cloud-based software. Downloadable, this option allows systems to be deployed quickly and updated instantaneously across a network. As a result, caterers and businesses can respond quickly to changing environments. This speed and flexibility means menus and prices, as well as nutritional and dietary information can all be updated to adapt to gathered data, stock, and evolving demands from customers.
Cashier-less checkout systems, powered by advanced sensors and AI that can visually identify purchased merchandise and charge customers automatically, are in demand. These systems, when used in canteens and dining halls, will speed up processes and help reduce person-to-person contact in an already busy environment.
4. Loyalty schemes
Research by Yoyo and Preoday in 2019 revealed that 57 per cent of UK workers with a canteen would visit more often if there was a loyalty scheme that offered personalised deals. Moving forward we will see customers placing increased importance upon rewards and having a renewed appreciation for their corporate catering environment.
For the corporate caterer this means keeping in communication with customers. With lack of in-person contact, digital loyalty schemes will be more important than ever to retain and build relationships with customers. Caterers will need to make greater use of branded loyalty schemes to encourage repeat custom through loyalty points, personalised rewards and communication.
5. Behavioural biometrics
Iris, fingerprints and facial movement are all big news in payment technology right now. We’re seeing ‘pay by selfie’ or ‘smile to pay’ services across China and will see these types of services move across to Europe this year. These support cashless environments and higher footfall by delivering payment at lightning speed.
Biometric payments will revolutionise the payment landscape, but for now they still need to be authenticated in two forms. This area also needs significant work on legislation to ensure security and privacy for users. Older generations may well be reluctant to use this technology, so there will be a journey in terms of education and acceptance.
6. Personalised offering
AI and data analysis will revolutionise the customer experience by offering increased personalisation. These technologies will use algorithms to identify individual and group behaviours, thus profiling customers and learning from our ordering and payment patterns.
Using AI, allergen and calorific content showing on menus will be improved and customised for customers preferences and needs. This will help develop a safer, more enjoyable catering experience. AI will also help the caterer to re-evaluate more closely data gathered from technology systems to drive growth, reduce wastage and improve safety.
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