Love it or hate it, the vast reach of technology and its effect on the food service industry, is here to stay and is ever-evolving. Even though the mad fad of creating insane “Instagrammable” dishes has somewhat faded, social media, online reservations, review sites and home delivery platforms have all emerged recently to change the face of dining worldwide.
The temptation is to take an ‘ignore it and it will go away’ position and keep conducting business as usual. Or viewing it as a necessary evil worthy of minimal effort. Savvy operators, however, have embraced the change, and are creatively exploiting the raft of technologies, making it work for them in solving real business problems.
The likes of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have been around for a few years now and have seen many venues jump on board with varying success. However, if used right it can help operators take control of their own narrative and engage with diners like never before. Beyond announcing menu changes, special offers and mouth-watering food images, social posts can educate, inspire and mobilise.
There are many success stories of venues who have found their niche on social media, by building on diners’ FOMO and telling a compelling story.
Online reservations and reviews
The rise of online table reservation sites such as Restaurant Hub, and local versions of Menulog, OpenTable and ResDiary have changed how diners choose where to eat, often based on a score out of 5. The convenience of locating somewhere new and securing a table with a few clicks on the way out the door, is something that once embraced, can result in real business benefits.
The user review aspect is obviously a double edged sword, but if handled well has seen very positive outcomes.
Home delivery apps
Delivery apps have seen some negative press due to the added pressure at peak times, food being out of chefs' control once it leaves the kitchen on the back of a bike, all while that precious margin gets squeezed for the privilege.
The good news is the benefits to businesses can outweigh the negatives with some creative thinking and preparation. Apps can increase trade during quiet periods, help recruit new customers and build the profile of the business.
New Zealanders are now spending relatively more on restaurant meals and takeaways, and less on grocery items, Stats NZ says. And the number of Kiwis ordering food delivered straight to their door is predicted to grow at twice the rate of dining in or picking up takeaways in the next four years, according to research commissioned by global takeaway giant Just Eat, the parent company of Menulog.
Last year, Menulog enjoyed a 42 per cent increase in orders, and the group generated more than NZ$600 million in orders across New Zealand and Australia.
Wok Express says online ordering has grown to be more than 60 per cent of the company's total orders in the past decade. Other local operators have also entered into the market, including booking site Restaurant Hub, and the New Zealand owned and operated start-up LazyAz as well as other local operators Delivereasy and Food Ninja.
New Zealand also has one of the fastest-growing Uber takeaway markets in the world, with demand for home delivery far outpacing expectations after launching in Auckland in 2017 and the number of Uber restaurants available in Auckland quadrupling, from 70 to nearly 300.
Global Data research predicted an annual growth of 6.7 per cent for the New Zealand takeaway delivery market by 2021, more than double the growth of the dine-in and pick-up takeaway markets.
Sure, technology has added a complicated facet to doing business, but with the right approach, great things can happen. Take a look at our article 'Tips to get the most of tecnology for your food business' for some ways of navigating the tech minefield, and make it work for, not against your bottom line.