Technology improves service

Technology

Eighty-six per cent of consumers feel that technology has improved interaction staff since the lockdown, according to a study from Zonal and CGA.

Over a third of consumers said that they would be more likely to visit a venue that had order-and-pay technology.

Front of house teams shared similar views to consumers as they saw order and pay technology as vital in promoting safe as well as pleasurable experiences. When asked, hospitality professionals thought helping people feel safer and reducing the need for social interaction were the two biggest benefits of digital solutions.

But they also emphasised the need to balance technology with human contact. More than half (58%) of professionals felt Covid-related safety measures have impacted the level of service they can provide. But this view was not shared by consumers, the research shows that nearly nine in ten (86%) think their interaction with staff is the same or better than it was before lockdown.

Before the pandemic, 18% of the 5,000 UK adults surveyed, said they typically used technology to order and pay for food and drink. However, that number has more than doubled to 43% since hospitality reopened in July emphasising the pivotal role that technology has played in hospitality since the end of the first lockdown.

And consumers have reacted positively to the new wave of order and pay technology. Just over three quarters (77%) say they had been satisfied or very satisfied with the ease of ordering, and even more (79%) with the ease and speed of payment.

Engagement with technology was much higher among younger adults with nearly two thirds of 18 to 24 year-olds (62%) reporting having used order and pay solutions since lockdown, but the number tailed off amongst older groups like 55 to 64 year-olds (32%).  Despite three quarters (74%) of consumers said they were willing download only one to five apps on their devices, the younger adults were much more likely to prefer mobile apps to websites.

The findings emphasised the close correlation between digital ordering solutions and customer concerns over safety. 40% of consumers say they felt safer in venues that use order and pay technology demonstrating how it has been an important tool in operators’ efforts to give people the confidence to eat and drink out during the pandemic.

Alison Vasey, Zonal’s group product director said ‘As the industry reopened, technology very quickly became the solution to a whole raft of new challenges which led to an increase in the demand and usage of self-ordering and payment solutions. What is clear from the research is that customers have embraced self order and pay systems and feel safe in venues who have adopted this technology. As usage continues to grow, operators will look to enhance the online ordering experience through additional features and personalisation to keep customers engaged with the platforms once Covid measures are eased.’

When asked about their rea­sons for using solutions beyond the pandemic around half of consumers cited convenience (53%) and ease of payment (47%) their top drivers for using order and pay technology.  Other factors included not having to wait for staff to take orders (32%) and being able to see what they are ordering and the cost (30%).

The survey also highlighted that consumers need to know they can trust order and pay solutions before fully embracing them. 48% said they will only download an order and pay app in a venue if it is from a brand they know and trust. For operators, this reconfirms the importance of brand loyalty and working with technology partners that have a strong reputation or that can be trusted to protect brand integrity.

Karl Chessell, CGA business unit director, food and retail, said: “The adoption of technology across hospitality has been one of the most eye-catching side effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Digital solutions have been an integral part of hospitality’s efforts to show consumers they are in safe hands, and they will have another big role to play when we emerge from England’s second lockdown in December. With the right investment, it can give businesses an important edge as they recover from a very challenging 2020.”