Dramatic. Although I’m certain that at the time the 25th Anniversary of MURTEC 2020 attendees had not considered that they may be attending the last industry hospitality technology conference of the year. Fingers crossed that this is not the case and we are able to return to a level of normalcy sooner rather than later.
Like hotels 20 years ago, the food & beverage industry finds themselves in the midst of a contest for their customer and distribution of their products and services in a technology driven world.TRAVHOTECH
Despite what were approaching circumstances that we are all now deeply experiencing, MURTEC began with a good crowd and plenty of enthusiasm from the Food & Beverage and restaurant technology industry. Naturally, some of the intended attendees were not able to come to Las Vegas as corporate travel bans kicked in for some organizations. Although Hospitality Technology, the producers and Paris, the hosting venue were mindful of and providing for sensible health recommendations, sanitation and delegate behavior over the course of the event.
The big picture
The opportunities for technology have exploded in the food and beverage sector of the hospitality industry.
What are people saying? What do we want them to say? What are we doing to get them to say it?Ken Schmidt – Former Director Communications, Harley Davidson
For so long much of the automation capability of food & beverage operations has been driven by Point of Sale technology. In a very short time restaurant operations has morphed into a full distribution battleground. Hotel sector like players have entered the market as ‘online F&B agents’ taking customer base, ordering processes and in some case usurping the entire customer journey. Like hotels 20 years ago, the food & beverage industry finds themselves in the midst of a contest for their customer and distribution of their products and services in a technology driven world.
Ken Schmidt, former Director of Communications that helped to turn around a flailing Harley Davidson keynoted the conference. His message reminding delegates that in a world of great products it takes more than a product alone to maintain a presence and create brand loyalty in the customers mind.
Order to delivery
Top of mind for the food and beverage technology community were the key challenges of delivery, payment handling, security, and the challenge of distributed and siloed technology. All of which are familiar to the hospitality industry in general and across it’s various sectors. Technology leaders also discussed challenges with loyalty and third party distribution channels ownership of the customer relationship – the OTA’s of the food and beverage sector (Opentable, Ubereats, DoorDash).
Given the circumstances MURTEC organised impromptu break out sessions to discuss the emerging situation with CoronaVirus and also broadcast some of the sessions live for people who were not able to attend.
On the topic of delivery, clearly a challenge exists in relation to cost of sale and quality of the delivery experience to the customer. The further impact is the indirect customer relationship. A number of operators have dispensed with third party delivery services driven by cost and a number cited the Domino’s strategy of owning the customer journey from order to product delivery as a core strategy.
Voice Assistants were also on the agenda with various experiences trialed in the operation. Some with success and others finding that the level of complexity of the menu and modifiers demonstrated customer drop off mid order. Solutions were provided for hybrid ‘favourite order’ scenarios for regular customers.
On the payment front the combination of emerging payment methods and pay at the table were the key drivers of both potential solutions and the customer experience. Several providers building the linkage between the e-check and payment via a personal device including check splitting and the avoidance of proprietary apps and enrollment processes.
Restaurant operators also highlighted challenges with consolidating communications across a broad and disparate employee base, and managing and adjudicating over third party messaging groups that might be established outside of corporate applications and communication channels.
Gamification was also a topic. Some restaurant operators have experimented with gamification in the form of sales competitions and recognition and reward platforms for food and beverage staff. Both locally and as across brand performance drivers.
New on the menu
MURTEC’s startup alley provided for some very interesting emerging technologies and as it turned out, some topical of the global scenario we are now facing.
Popular winner, PathSpot provided technology at it’s best. Simple, practical and straightforward solution that is easy to deploy and addresses a specific challenge in a closed loop solution. Food Hygiene and staff cleanliness – hand scanning, tracking, logging and aggregating hand hygiene data for food and beverage staff.
Other standouts were a broadcasting solution allowing in house TV’s to automatically overlay venue based advertisements and promotions during network broadcasting of generic commercials. A conversational AI solution for food and beverage operations. A pay on personal device solution in an app-less, and enrollment free environment. A thoughtful mobility solution where detailed research has been applied to mobile Point of Sale equipment design for service teams. We also liked app free mobile & table ordering and nightclub robot solution from Bbot where overhead tractor systems deliver drink orders to a table. Perhaps not for every venue, but a glimpse into a version of a likely future.
The main trade show floor was well attended by a range of technology providers across the restaurant technology community. We noted an emerging tendency toward across business integration both in front and back of house solutions, as compared to stand alone solutions for a specific function. Like all areas of hospitality, siloed applications are having the same impact on the food and beverage sector. Consolidation of processes and data is becoming increasingly attractive.
Infrastructure deployment across restaurant business units is also a driving factor for multi-unit operators with industry specific managed solutions prevalent. In the core space of Point of Sale, new players are emerging in the market in competition with the incumbent vendors. The hardware solutions for Point of Sale equipment continue to become more modular, space saving and adopt hi-design providing a complimentary fit in modern food and beverage outlets.
End to end order to delivery is a rapidly emerging phenomena for the industry. Food & Beverage operators now need to be able to provide digital ordering experiences and ensure final delivery to the customer within the outlet or to the customers own home. The logistical aspects across vendors and third parties is presenting new challenges for the industry.
Taking a specific focus on the food and beverage sector, MURTEC demonstrates that the business challenges restaurant operators encounter are similar to other sectors of the hospitality industry. Such an environment is complimentary for a comprehensive approach to industry technology solutions moving into the future.
If circumstances come to pass that MURTEC is the last technology focused conference for the broader hospitality industry in 2020, we were pleased that we could attend. The immediate impact of the global CoronaVirus pandemic may very well provide the catalyst for acceleration of thoughtful technology adoption and increased customer orientation as our industry emerges from the crisis.
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