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Salima Vellani: Why intuitive technology and real-time data could be the key to saving our hospitality sector

Salima Vellani, CEO and founder of Kbox Global, considers how data could help the UK’s ailing hospitality sector

These are worrying times for the global hospitality industry. Most venues have faced either a catastrophic drop-off in custom, reduced capacity due to social distancing requirements, or intermittent closure due to local lockdown restrictions.

Proprietors are already finding new ways to make their businesses profitable, even when socialisation is at a standstill, when dining out is off the menu, or when travel and tourism are being talked about in the past tense.

The hospitality industry is traditionally slow to embrace new technologies, believing the answer can be found in the kitchen, among staff, ingredients, and promotions. However, the answers to the current challenges are powered by data.

Getting in on the delivery game

With regulations being relaxed and allowing venues to move into food delivery without the paperwork, more and more venues are looking at how they can enter the rapidly growing online food delivery market, putting their commercial kitchens to better use while the rest of the business is laid up.

On the face of it, packaging up an existing menu for home delivery may look like a smart move – particularly given the rise of tech platforms such as Uber Eats and Deliveroo, which allow an upload of a menu and deliveries commencing within days. But, the rules of the delivery game are very different to on-premises dining.

Speed and convenience are the top customer priorities. Premium pricing won’t resonate, because delivery audiences care less about heritage or a chef’s credentials. Even if the restaurant used to attract audiences from far afield, this won’t be true of a delivery proposition. The average delivery kitchen serves just a 2-4 mile radius, and local competition will be intense.

A delivery-first mind -set and offering delivery first brands are required to secure that potential new revenue stream.

Re-thinking the kitchen

It is really difficult to make money if your kitchen is only geared up to serve a single food brand and a single menu. With the help of new technology and training processes, it’s possible to quickly and easily reorganise the kitchen to serve up multiple food brands and menus for external delivery – with absolutely no impact on what’s being offered in the venue itself.

Offering an array of food brands means that you can reach a far wider audience within your local area. And, if you choose complementary types of cuisine, you can make far better use of both your kitchen equipment and your kitchen team.

Food delivery technology exists and is transforming the way kitchens are running, by fully optimising the facilities and staff time. The technology can seamlessly integrate the   inventory management systems with the leading online delivery platforms, so that the kitchen can start taking delivery orders as soon as staff are ready.

Let the data be your guide

The technology is imperative because it goes so much further than initial set up. Another feature of delivery consumer is their expectation of new tastes and trends, and propensity to switch to another evening as their likely takeaway night. In short, once underway with a multi-brand delivery operation, only by knowing how each brand and each menu item is performing will operators be able to run efficiently, to pivot, adapt and tweak. Ultimately, adaptation is crucial to continue to profit.

Machine learning, using data to understand customers’ ordering habits so that you can continually refine your delivery offering is how to continue to optimise the kitchen. The technology will allow a cross-referencing of one’s own data against broader food delivery and demographic datasets to get a complete picture of the local market and ensure that changing tastes and preferences are noted.

The technology does the legwork, and produces clear, instructional insights about how to evolve the offering on an item-by-item basis. In the delivery arena it’s the food brands that are sacrosanct, not the kitchens, meaning that changes can be made swiftly, with no negative impact on the kitchen or proprietor’s reputation. 

The hospitality industry needs to diversify revenues and protect livelihoods, for post-Covid and beyond. It is food technology and data that will deliver success for those moving into the online delivery market for the first time.

It’s time to rethink the kitchen for the delivery-first age.