While the pandemic has changed the trajectories of many industries, few have experienced a reshuffle as notable as food hospitality. After lockdowns, supply chain cut-offs, and staff shortages – just to name a few of the problems – goods and services in the sector are currently delivered in ways that are more efficient, more sanitised and, importantly, more tech-driven.
However, hospitality technologies that enabled this progress, such as QR-code ordering and delivery services, are not just empty vessels. Apart from their instrumental values, these innovations also contain brand opportunities for restaurants and suppliers to market themselves in a targeted way.
More than a QR code
One tech company that benefited from new approaches to dining post-pandemic is HungryHungry, a front-of-house QR code ordering system, whose consumers have come to know better in the past few years. The company raised $2 million in 2020 during the peak of COVID, and is the second venture for its founders, Mark Calabro and Shannon Hautot, who previously ran a point-of-sale (POS) company called OrderMate.
Apart from its main feature of streamlining the customer-POS-kitchen process in a restaurant, HungryHungry also has an embedded marketing module that allows restaurants to utilise historical customer data for targeted promotions.
These modules range from mailing lists and promo codes to add-ons and social media kits. For methods such as SMS direct marketing, the list of distribution can be sourced from orders processed by HungryHungry, or historical transactions recorded in POS software.
Hautot says this targeted approach directed at existing customers can be powerful when it comes to generating ROI for restaurants.
“We send out an SMS, and an SMS cost like 20 cents each,” he says. “But for every SMS that we send out, we get an uplift of an extra $3 in average order, which doesn’t sound much, but in terms of a return on investment, $3 versus 20 cents, that’s huge.”
“In a restaurant, all these little one percenters are where they can save costs, or where they can get a little bit extra on revenue.”
Regardless of what module venue owners choose to use, Hautot explains the idea is to create Facebook Ads-like options for restaurants where they have flexibility on various aspects of a campaign such as budgets and messaging.
But different from social media, ordering systems like HungryHungry holds a wealth of behavioural data such as ordering frequency and item preferences, allowing restaurants to cater marketing efforts towards genuine customer needs.
“We’re putting some smarts in at the moment where you can find out who your best customers are and reward those customers. And it’s one of those things that’s going to allow venue managers to, again, focus more on the actual customer, less on the technology and let the technology handle a lot of that marketing.”
“The thing about the hospitality industry is much like Qantas and frequent flyer points – loyalty is a huge thing,” Hautot says. “But what loyalty really comes down to is, you want to provide a great experience for people, you want to get new customers, and then you want to bring them in again and again and again.”
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A place for discovery
Moving away from front-of-the-house technologies, sectors of food hospitality are also exploring digital ways to reach new customers. While B2C platforms such as UberEats and Deliveroo have long been leveraging their established user bases to serve curated advertising opportunities for merchants, others like Providoor encourage a more hospitality-centric approach that helps restaurants to be discovered intuitively by diners.
Positioned as a premium takeaway service, Providoor delivers dishes, set menus and a la carte offerings from restaurants such as Rockpool, Cho Cho San and Icebergs Dining Room and Bar. With more than half of diners (56%) coming to Providoor to try out new restaurants, Michael McCash, the platform’s CMO, says technology is just a facilitator of consumers’ developing needs.
“Diners’ eating patterns have shifted post-pandemic, but their love of gathering with friends and family and dining on exceptional food hasn’t,” he says. “The only difference is how and where they choose to dine.”
By involving itself with restaurants’ marketing efforts, Providoor is essentially showcasing its best brand assets: the food, ethos, history and exceptionality of venues the platform houses.
“That could be through our own channels, media partnerships like Broadsheet, PR, connecting our partners with third parties that add value (product inclusions, produce etc.) and even helping them with marketing to ensure first and foremost that their restaurants thrive and have diners in venues,” says McCash.
At the same time, platforms perhaps not mentioned enough but nevertheless form an important part of food hospitality, are venue-facing B2B marketplaces such as FoodByUs, which have most of the time taken up the job of food trade fairs of connecting suppliers with restaurants.
Ben Lipschitz, CEO and co-founder of FoodByUs, said showcasing suppliers to venues via a digital marketplace can benefit both sides and provide valuable organic marketing opportunities.
“Taking a step back, wholesale food is a really old school industry. So for a lot of them, technology is a new thing,” he says. “For suppliers, historically, they would have had reps going out and door knocking restaurants, and showcasing like ‘hey, we’re a supplier of meat or vegetables or seafood, why don’t you learn about our products?’ And they are still doing that.”
“But how do we benefit them? We are another channel to the market.”
Lipschitz says suppliers have had double or triple the value of orders received from the same customer if they ordered via FoodByUs instead of traditional channels.
“Because the customer can see every single product, search, and compare, and really understand what that supplier is showcasing because of the tech,” he says, “whereas before they were literally issued with physical price sheets, like A4 sheets that you’d have to thumb through to understand all that the supplier offers.”
Additionally, the nature of a marketplace also facilitates the discovery of not only business, but also market trends. Lipschitz says this constitutes another organic marketing component for suppliers where demand is generated through venues discovering trends and wanting to hop on board.
“We’re sitting on a lot of data, like a LOT of data, we’re basically seeing every single transaction that happens from a venue through the network. We will look at that and see that, for example, alternative milks are going up month on month or week on week – and in particular, which brands and which type of nuts.”
“But we’re also sort of listening to our suppliers, because there are trends that they’re aware of well before us, we only see it at a transactional level, which means people are already kind of voting with their dollars.”
At the end of the day, Lipschitz says introducing technology into hospitality is all about working with the players and finding the balance between innovation and tradition.
“I think that one of the challenges of selling technology into hospitality is that everyone’s a little hesitant of it, they probably got something that they think works,” he says.
“You’re sort of walking that really fine line between – here is something new and different that’s going to help you, but in order to show its benefits to you, I have to kind of help you understand why what you’re doing isn’t the best way – and that can rub people up the wrong way.”
Additional reporting by Seja Al Zaidi.
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