The future of restaurants must take into account the changes in behaviours with consumers getting more immersed in the digital realm. Even before Covid-19, the sector was undergoing a period of change led by shifts in consumers’ attitudes towards digital engagement. The online event organised by Edenred yesterday addressed the future of the restaurant sector and how digital support can help the rebirth of the sector after the pandemic.
1. Digitalisation of restaurants and hospitality
In light of an already huge existing restaurant tech ecosystem, the digitalisation of restaurants is an important step forward for the sector to develop. There are enormous opportunities to improve including better prediction of inventory demand which will help reduce food waste and control costs.
Matthias Kuom, from the European Commission (DG CNECT) presented a concrete case happening in Estonia, where the use of robots is turning intra-logistics more efficient as less time and workforce are required for transportation.
Named Kulinaaria OÜ, the food manufacturing company is using different types of technologies to improve the transportation of boxes. The company deployed Autonomous Ground Vehicles (AGVs) and Open Platforms for Innovations in Logistics (OPIL) to optimise the material handling process and the routes along which the material is transported. According to Kuom, the company managed to reduce 10% on intra-logistics defects and increase the speed of transport by 10% with a 20% decrease in labour cost.
“When it comes to digital, a couple of data would be interesting especially regarding food delivery system,” said Marie Audren, HOTREC’s Director-General, urging technology providers to reach out to restaurants with different options that could be beneficial for the sector.
The size of the restaurant at stake will naturally have an impact on whether it can embark on the launch of digital services, however, even taking into account the necessary investments, the return on investment is likely to be positive.
Alfred Gajdosik from the European Economic and Social Committee recalled a visit to Japan where he stayed in a 120-room hotel in which only one employee was actively working with the help of a robot — the housekeeper.
To get in the hotel room, Gajdosik said, everything was done with the mobile phone. Such reality is still far from European hotels but it may well become more prominent should the right tech come into place. Nevertheless, the human component comes into place, and many tourists may feel uncomfortable with this concept.
2. Rising from a sequence of shocks
A key aspect of the digital transformation’s success will lie in finding the best partners in a complex environment where a growing number of actors are now offering services to restaurants. For example, instruments such as the meal voucher bring digital solutions to restaurant to balance profitability and digitalization. A French study recently highlighted that consumers would cut back on spending at the restaurant by almost 50% if they did not have a meal voucher.
Edenred Belgique révolutionne ses solutions de paiement digital en partenariat avec @MastercardBE_FR. Utilisation élargie, paiement mobile, plastique recyclé. 3 innovations inédites sur le marché belge.#VotreMeilleureCarte #MobilePayment #Digitalisation #New pic.twitter.com/rpR8wOj0MN— Edenred Belgique (@EdenredBelgique) April 29, 2022
Audren said there has been a transformation in the restaurant industry, not only pushed by the pandemic but also based on the different needs from consumers, with a younger generation relying on mobile devices and technology for their consumer habits.
Anticipating a better year than the previous two, Audren said: “One good summer is not going to make for two years of difficulties.” The HOTREC’s chief said that growth is being driven by domestic European travel, however, the sector is still missing international tourists given the existing restrictions still present in the US and China, for example.
Our establishments for the past two years have been closed or operating under significant restrictions. After two years we are reopening and there is optimism regarding the future.Marie Audren, HOTREC’s Director-General
She defends that digitalisation can play a key role in helping the restaurant sector move on. On the down side, Audren referred the implications of the war in Ukraine, noting that the situation will have an impact on the restaurant sector with food shortages and overall trade disruptions that will ultimately have an impact on menus.
A very concrete project run by the Commission is currently underway to identify existing and develop new digital innovations in the restaurant ecosystem. The project RESTwithEU, briefly presented by Kuom, will define and stimulate the reuse of existing tools and development of new digital solutions for specific challenges to support the restaurant sector. In particular, new tolls based on artificial intelligence are being explored.
Activities like hackathons will be organised to initiate the development of these innovative technical solutions. The final results will provide solutions and a guidebook to support the restaurant sector, explaining what is best for each concrete case.