TECHNOLOGY has been improving at a rapid rate for decades now, and the number of tech upgrades being offered to the on-trade only seems to be accelerating year-on-year.
With the emergence of contactless cards, Apple and Android Pay, mobile reservation apps and a whole host of customer review sites, there’s a lot for operators to keep on top of.
And with the busiest trading period of the year on the horizon, a number of hospitality-focused tech firms say there are many ways in which licensees can use new technology to improve their bottom line.
Lesley Corr, European sales director at hospitality tech firm Posera – the company behind the Maitre’D EPOS system – said that with technology evolving at a fast pace “it is worthwhile for operators to look at new and innovative solutions available on the market”.
Corr said it is important that operators keep up to date with developments in hospitality-related technology, particularly as prices may not be as prohibitive as they were in the past.
“All the latest technologies offered to licensees help enhance their business operation,” said Corr.
“The pricing of technology has reduced in recent years making it more affordable for licensees.”
Harry Millan, managing director of equipment supplier Millan Services, agreed, adding that technology in the on-trade has not only improved but also become “more reliable” over the past few years, while costs have come down.
“Whether it is EPOS systems, glasswashers or flat screens, we now enjoy a much higher standard of equipment than we have ever done,” said Millan.
Mobile point of sale makes redeeming vouchers easy.
Robin Knox, chief product officer at Intelligent Point of Sale, the Scottish EPOS firm which was recently acquired by Swedish payments system company iZettle, reckons the importance of the approaching festive period to the trade makes now an ideal time for operators to assess their tech needs.
“Efficiency matters, managing product is critical and any point of difference between you and a competitor has to be embraced and promoted like your life depends upon it,” said Knox.
“Technology can help with all of that and it is important to be on top of the latest developments not just to be ahead of the game but also to be able to offer something exciting and new to your customers.”
Developments in point of sale technology in particular were highlighted by Knox as offering the potential to enhance an on-trade business.
“When speed of reaction matters, an easy to use point of sale system can make a huge difference and it doesn’t cost the earth; a subscription service such as ours is less than £40 per month,” said Knox.
“Contactless and the likes of Apple Pay and Android Pay can cut queues dramatically, speeding up service.”
Further advantages that new technology can provide to an outlet were also highlighted by Owen Chen, president and chief exec of EPOS firm Posiflex Technology.
Chen reckons on-trade operators should consider adding mobile point of sales units to their operation as these could help staff handle the busy festive season more efficiently.
“Mobile POS solutions have been specifically designed to provide businesses with all the functionality of a fixed POS with the flexibility of a tablet,” he said.
“There are several benefits to mPOS, perhaps the most recognised of which is the ability for staff to carry the tablet around with them and take orders and payment from anywhere in the pub or bar.
“This means less waiting in line for drinks and a speedier checkout process, perfect for Christmas time when pubs are particularly crowded.”
The latest EPOS technology won’t just help boost in-outlet efficiency, according to Chen; it could also provide advantages in terms of customer engagement through social media.
“Mobile point of sale also makes it easy for customers to redeem seasonal promotional vouchers issued through Facebook, Twitter and other social media, without having to wait in line,” he said.
“Moreover, with CRM integration, mobile POS can be used as an integrated customer engagement tool to create desirable offers, promote loyalty programmes, and customise vouchers.”
Alison Lambie, director at Sims Automatics, agreed that it’s important operators “gear up” for the festive season making sure to make changes with enough time to “bed in” before Christmas trading.
The importance of having a handle on what’s happening in terms of stock over the festive period was also flagged up by Lambie.
“Modern EPOS systems are much more than just processing sales transactions; they can help in many other aspects of running the business, like customer loyalty and stock control,” she said. “And with every order you have full details of exactly what has been sold, when and by whom.”
The benefits of utilising new technology over the festive period were also highlighted by Olivia FitzGerald, managing director at digital reservation firm liveRES.
FitzGerald said having the right technology to manage bookings over Christmas “is essential”.
“Given that most people are booking outside traditional office hours, whilst commuting from work or watching TV after a busy day, it’s really important they can easily make a reservation on the go using a mobile device,” she said.
The advantages of operating with the most up to date technology aren’t limited to making things easier for staff, according to FitzGerald, who reckons the ease of use that new tech can provide for consumers will help a venue stand out from its competition.
Most people book a night out while commuting or at home after work.
“With increasing choice, competition for Christmas bookings is fiercer than ever and operators need to provide a compelling proposition for customers to book with them,” said FitzGerald.
“They need to provide a highly responsive site showing live availability to party bookers browsing online.”
It’s not just Christmas footfall that will benefit from an upgraded booking platform.
FitzGerald reckons the advantages of operating with a digital reservation system can also pay dividends for an outlet into the new year.
“The best gift of all is the potential to gather important customer data during this busy (festive) period,” she said.
“Some of our most canny brands follow up bookings made during the festive period by rewarding bookers with a post-Christmas offer to drive sales in gloomy January, giving them two bites at the cherry.”
From point of sale and mobile payments to online reservations, there’s an abundance of technology aimed at ensuring business runs as smoothly as possible – but technology isn’t just there to enhance the operation of a venue.
James Luck of on-trade music supply firm Soundnet said it also plays an important role in entertainment.
“Entertainment is hugely important for pubs and bars, as it sets the venue apart in terms of what it offers the customer,” said Luck.
“Whether it is live entertainment or a constantly updated jukebox, it is clear that entertainment will keep the customer in the venue longer, resulting in more wet sales.”
Getting an outlet’s music offer on the money is “essential”, according to Luck, who reckons getting things wrong in this area “can effectively drive custom out of a venue”.
Chris Black, managing director at jukebox supply firm Sound Leisure, agreed on the importance of a strong entertainment offer to the on-trade.
Black suggested that when it comes to on-trade audio, it’s vital that operators turn to the professionals to ensure everything is spot on.
“Our advice would be always use professional equipment or suppliers, don’t try and do it yourself,” said Black.
“Bring in the correct expertise for Karaoke – in our experience this requires a good front person to get the evening running.”