Having a restaurant service staff taking your order with a pen and paper and manually passing a copy to the kitchen may soon be a thing of the past. More F&B outlets in Singapore are looking at digital solutions to take away mundane processes like these and allow more time for service staff to interact with customers.
A pioneer in integrating IT in his food and beverage ventures for more than a decade, Mr Andrew Tan, founder of AT+Co which owns outlets like Tomo Izakaya and Nigiro Café, shared, “Today’s dining experience is not just about the food. It is the entire customer experience from the point a customer decides to walk into your restaurant. Technology helps to differentiate us from competitors.”
Mr Tan feels strongly about using IT to simplify his business processes and upgrades the technology systems at his restaurants every three years to help him cope with operational challenges. His latest push to automate part of his business operations stems from the need for restaurateurs to deal with the growing manpower crunch and rising labour cost. The challenge is to maintain a positive customer experience when they have inexperienced or a shortage of service staff.
Singtel’s cloud-based integrated F&B solution, Connected Restaurant, includes apps to simplify the process of serving customers. The electronic menu in the point-of-sales (POS) app enables greater efficiency for front of house service. Once the order is keyed into an iPad, it is sent directly to the kitchen and cashier. It eliminates the need for the service staff to make multiple trips from taking orders and keying them into the manual POS system, printing of order slips to physically passing them to the kitchen. The estimated 6-days saved every month for such manual tasks, allows them to focus on attending to customers’ needs.
“Human touch is still very important in a restaurant business. Technology can help us take away some processes and allow more time for staff to chat with customers”, expressed Ibuki-san, General Manager of Nigiro Café.
Ibuki-san is also exploring options to customise workflows and devise interactive ordering interfaces that present cross-selling opportunities. For example, when a customer orders a pasta main course, the screen automatically pans out to recommend salads, soups and desserts to complement the main course.
Aside from the POS functionality that simplifies the ordering process, Connected Restaurant solution automatically updates earnings and expenses real time to the Accounting app so that there is no need for manual tallying of the books across the outlets at the end of the day.
Ibuki-san shared, “Besides enhancing customer experience on the restaurant front, the solution also helps us to better manage and consolidate the books across all our outlets. Being a cloud-based system, it reduces our investments in physical infrastructure and enables us to log in anytime, anywhere. All you need is a trusted fibre broadband for the solution to run.”
As more mobile devices are being deployed, Mr Tan sees a need to protect their confidential data such as their accounting and customer information. With more sophisticated malwares being developed, Mr Tan understands that a simple download of seemingly harmless application on any of their mobile devices can be an entry for cyber criminals to obtain confidential information. Singtel’s Mobile Threat Prevention (MTP) solution fulfils his needs as this easy-to-use solution protects the data by proactive detection of malwares through live monitoring and assessment of behaviour of all installed apps on the mobile devices for abnormality. This security solution gives him a peace of mind as he continues his digital transformation journey for his company.
Drawing from his years of experience as a consultant and visionary for the F&B industry, Mr Tan concluded, “Technology disrupts and displaces many industries. With the rise of smartphones, industries like the camera and perhaps the television will be disappearing soon. SMEs need to be prepared for the rapidly changing economy. I strongly believe that embracing technology is the smarter way to go.”
Technology innovation gives retailers the ammunition to compete effectively. As a big supporter of technology, Mr Alan Lee, engineer turned entrepreneur and Director of Business Development, Klosh, is always exploring new ways to enhance the shopping experience across his chain of 6 stores.
“Running a retail business means being kept on one’s toes at all times. We are constantly making decisions to increase visitors, attract the right crowd, optimise manpower allocation and encourage sales conversion. Making these decisions used to depend on manual tracking, staff observations, past sales records and gut feel,” said Mr Lee.
Besides pulling quantitative data from sales reports, Mr Lee also used to visit his stores frequently to gather qualitative data. “Our store supervisors often attribute lacklustre sales performance to bad foot traffic. As we could not verify these observations or measure the effectiveness of promotional campaigns and product placements, we just have to trust them,” explained Mr Lee. It was evident that this way of ‘fact gathering’ was not ideal as sales performance could be affected by other parameters such as product mix, staff experience, product knowledge and more.
When he decided to rebrand the single-label Artbox, which targeted mainly school-going children, to the multi-label Klosh to target customers from ages 20s to 40s, Mr Lee subscribed to Singtel M2M Video Analytics to turn traditional security surveillance into actionable intelligence. “With Singtel M2M Video Analytics, we can now make use of the images recorded from surveillance cameras to get real-time data on people counting, crowd density, audience profiling, face indexing and other parameters, which we can use to analyse and base our decisions on,” said Mr Lee.
Manpower planning is an area that has gotten a big boost since the deployment of the solution in 2015. “We are able to look at store traffic to optimise our manpower allocation, while upholding customer service levels,” said Mr Lee. This is crucial in managing staff cost while maximising sales at the stores on weekends, public holidays and during festive seasons.
Real-time analytics on crowd density also helps Mr Lee to understand the specific areas in his stores that attract more activity and visitors than others. This empowers better merchandising decisions, while optimising store layout and product placement to capture the desired store traffic.
With new information on customer demographics and buying preferences, Klosh can now design more effective marketing campaigns to target their customers better. “From the data, we see that more than 75% of Artbox’s customers are young females. We can now tweak our product mix to also capture other market segments such as the male crowd and families,” said Mr Lee.
Face indexing, which studies the customers’ facial expressions, allows Mr Lee to know how ‘happy’ his customers are at the point of purchase. “There were instances when a change of the store supervisor created a jump in the percentage of ‘happy’ customers from 5 – 6% to 30%! That is how powerful data is,” beamed Mr Lee.
Perhaps, the newfound ability to manage his business at his fingertips drives home the message of how technology can truly empower one’s business. “With technology, one can be a ‘smart business’ even with a very lean outfit. Leveraging technology innovatively will go a long way to enhance one’s business to increase efficiency, agility and consistency,” said Mr Lee.
For a business with limited IT resources and office space, acquiring, setting up and maintaining network equipment can be a big challenge. One way to manage this is to consider software-based network applications that are easy to manage and keep IT costs low without the need for hardware investment.
Global Knowledge Network (S) Pte Ltd, a provider of worldwide IT and management training, is one company that has opted to do so. To support its training for over 300,000 students annually across Asia, Global Knowledge has an extensive IT infrastructure setup including facilities to support classroom and on-site training, as well as virtual e-learning.
When its local data centre exceeded their current capacity and ran out of available power points, the IT administrators decided to switch to Singtel Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV) service. It enables them to virtually scale up their existing data centre capacity without the need for additional physical equipment or power on-site. With the NFV virtual router now sitting in the cloud, one of the IT Administrators, Mr Jamal Ali commented, “Without the need for physical routers, we managed to overcome the space constraint issue and reduced power consumption by about 15 percent.”
Now they no longer have to worry about equipment turning obsolete. The tedious 2-month process of procuring and deployment of IT equipment has also been eliminated. This has brought about accelerated deployment of service within 2 days and a significant reduction in IT investment on CAPEX.
After using the service, Mr RJ Reyes, IT Administrator, was pleased to share that it has helped to ease IT management, “Using the NFV centralised portal, we can now easily administer our network equipment from home. This allows us to respond quickly anytime, anywhere – without having to rush back to the office.”
With Singtel NFV service being highly scalable, the company is considering to deploy the service to its other locations. It looks forward to newfound flexibility to scale their network management requirements dynamically as business needs grow.
Find out how you can benefit from Singtel NFV service at www.singtel.com/nfv