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The future of ordering is about providing the right service to the right customers, in the right way

Jon Mahood, CFO – Wi5

In the world of digital payments, customer expectations have never been higher – in retail, one-click ordering and next-day delivery has rapidly become the norm, and any merchant failing to offer these services is already in danger of being left far behind those who were faster off the technological mark.  

But in hospitality, this change is only now starting to be noticed. A lack of ease in ordering, difficulty splitting the bill and long waiting times are all elements of the customer experience that can stand in the way of repeat business for restaurants and cafes.  For restaurants to thrive (or survive), they must use every tool at their disposal to put the customer at the heart of everything they do whilst also allowing their staff to focus on adding value.

Embracing the opportunities offered by technology will be crucial to the survival of many restaurants.  Technology will be the difference between keeping and losing customers, and those brands that choose to innovate can change the sector itself.

Customers today have become very tech savvy and expect the same level of technological sophistication wherever they shop. In this fast-paced environment, consumers are looking to buy things quickly – think self-service tills or pay-at-pump – which is one primary reason why unattended kiosks are becoming more common in foodservice, particularly for restaurants. The interactive kiosk market is rapidly growing with around a third of that market representing kiosks for food and beverage or casual dining restaurants, making this the single largest sector in the category. McDonald’s for instance, is already seen to be a pioneer in this area having recently acquired a technology company and invested in a mobile app developer in the space of a week.

Customers are embracing the change with more than 85% of consumers having used a self-service kiosk when they shop, and that number is on the rise. Beneficial both for the customer and the businesses, through queue-busting, enhanced order accuracy and reduced labour requirements, kiosks represent an important part of the dining industry’s future. There is an argument however, that kiosks are unlikely to work in all casual dining restaurants. For instance, if Pizza Express were to introduce kiosks, it would change the entire ambience of their restaurant as well as taking up valuable table space.

The real innovators will therefore recognise that a multi-channel approach will be necessary to offer a truly frictionless consumer experience, including a mobile-first option. It’s only this way a merchant can be truly customer-centric whilst also allowing for all the benefits brought about by self-service kiosks, without the expensive hardware using up large proportions of their capex budget though.

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The point is that the customer already has the hardware in their pocket or handbag (or even in their hand if they can’t put it away), therefore merchants have to jump at the opportunity for further potential cost reductions whilst realising the same benefits offered by a kiosk.

This is supported by the fact that almost 90% of the UK adult population now owns a smartphone and the average usage is two hours and 28 minutes a day. Restaurant chains are already looking to offer applications primarily for CRM or loyalty purposes as well as some already offering ‘order & pay’, in an attempt to maximise the opportunity brought about by mobile engagement. However customers are reluctant to download hundreds of different restaurant or coffee shop applications, whilst the merchants don’t want to offer their in-store service through an aggregated application so there must be an easier solution for both restaurant and consumer.

Wi5 gets customers ordering and paying on mobile in-venue, with no apps required. Piggybacking existing Wi-Fi, the Wi5 platform delivers an instantly gratifying and frictionless app-like mobile experience without the need for any native apps, other downloads or a cumbersome login process – helping businesses from quick service restaurants to stadiums and arenas decrease queues and increase sales all for just a £100 subscription fee per location per month plus an associated transaction fee..

Therefore rather than a restaurant or coffee chain waiting months to get capex investment approval for kiosk hardware, or the investment in the design and build of an application – possibly even outsourcing this – they have the choice to offer a SaaS based platform with a subscription fee providing a service complementing those who prefer face-to-face or kiosk self-service ordering – essentially providing the right service to the right customers, in the right way.

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