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One Year Later: Restaurants post COVID

Authors: Olivia Jackson, Senior Account Manager and Matthew Swan, Account Manager

One year on from Boris’ first lockdown announcement, we are all too aware of how the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the world as we know it.  One of the industries most impacted throughout the last year has been hospitality with these businesses having to react on a daily basis to the changing rules and regulations impacting their sector. Pivoting of resources, changing tact in the wake of a new government announcements, and opening & closing restaurants quickly became par for the course for Food & Beverage (F&B) operators globally.
 
Rapid Shift to Digitisation in Hospitality
 
To survive financially, many F&B operators looked to open up new revenue streams by launching new products and services. With in-restaurant dining no longer an option, the innovators in the sector quickly looked ecommerce to provide new ways to serve their customers. Great examples include Pizza Pilgrims and Patty & Bun who launched their much-loved  meal kits, or brands such as Bacardi who created a hotline to enable customers to get cocktail-making advice from a bartender.
 
Whilst mobile ordering is not new, it did need to evolve to support significant growth since in-dining was no longer an option. Some of Eagle Eye’s customers reported that over 60% of all orders were being made through digital ordering journeys, and this is only expected to rise as customers begin to dine out again in 2021. Not only did customers require the ability to order digitally, operators also built out pay at table and click & collect digital journeys to support the change in service cycle.
 
Those that embraced digital gifting also saw great success – research from GCVA found digital gifting in the UK grew by 70% in 2020. Not only was this another revenue stream, it allowed operators to keep in touch with their customers by delivering the gift in real time – in fact, 32% of people said they've bought gift cards for the first time amidst the pandemic. Further, the research highlighted a 25% growth in B2B gifting globally, with a key contributor being employer benefits schemes. With lockdown seeing the shift to working from home, employers wanted to reward their employees with tangible experiences to thank them for their hard work.
 
Benefits of Digitisation in Hospitality
 
A major reward of shifting to digital is the opportunity for operators to build more connections to their customers, in a way that was impossible when the customer was ‘unknown’ – the opportunity for personalisation in particular, knowing a customer’s likes/dislikes, food preferences, favourite time to dine - all go to building a much stronger foundation for a fruitful relationship. Operators can really tailor their communications and subsequent experience to the customer.
 
This is solidified by research from digital ordering platform, Qikserve, showing 58% of customers are more likely to remain loyal to a brand if they receive relevant and timely communications from them. Using data to surface relevant data points could prove to be a valuable resource to operators during the reopening process, to ensure a customer picks your restaurant over that of a competitor.
 
By knowing who your loyal customers are and providing them with incentives (priority table booking, value add offers, early access to new menu items) could be the swaying factor when they come to choosing where to visit first.

The Future of Digitisation in Hospitality
 
Those that will see the most success engaging their customers are those that ensure this new technology is fully integrated to any pre-existing promotional or loyalty scheme – without the ability to deliver and track omnichannel customer engagement long term, you are at risk of damaging the customer relationship and will likely reduce the value of your scheme.
 
Linking the data across the new digital journeys implemented, and using it in a relevant way, ensures your customer engagement is built on a strong foundation, and can help shape your acquisition, conversion and retention strategies.
 
It’s fair to say the last year has highlighted the resilience and tenacity within the hospitality industry, with so many operators surviving through sheer determination. As the reopenings begin, restaurants should not rest on their laurels, ensuring they listen to customers and react agilely to the continuing changes in customer needs, ensuring the technology developed continues to enhance the wider customer experience.
 
To find out how Eagle Eye can help your hospitality business drive footfall post reopening, please contact us here.