By Andrew Gibbon, head of growth at ePOS Hybrid, winner of Best SaaS for Catering and Hospitality at 2022 SaaS Awards

Over the last 24 months, the hospitality sector has faced countless obstacles; from forced closures for months to staff shortages, increasing utility and wholesale costs, inflation and additional National Insurance costs. It is hardly surprising that restaurant insolvencies increased by more than 60% between May 2021 and May 2022.

However, ‘In the midst of every crisis, lies opportunity’ – Einstein.

The past couple of years has led to the digital transformation of the sector being accelerated considerably, with some significant shifts in the way many businesses operate. For small businesses, particularly, it has proven that it is crucial to streamline operations for greater efficiency. This can substantially increase revenue – and while it has been challenging, some are set to come out of the other side stronger than before. Not only have we seen the way businesses interact with consumers completely shift, but businesses have been forced to pivot for the better, creating new revenue streams and offering customers a new, streamlined experience.

Automating operations for greater efficiency and increased profitability

One of the biggest trends in today’s hospitality market is multi-channel ordering. Consumers want flexibility in how they order food and interact with a business, but managing these multiple order sources from a business perspective is difficult.

Dine in, eat at home, delivery, pick-up, order by phone, online ordering, mobile payments, QR ordering, Deliveroo, JustEat, and the list goes on. A restaurateur has gone from managing a single sales channel in venue dining to half a dozen just to remain competitive and meet consumer demand. Multi-channel selling is often poorly executed and ultimately hidden operational and staffing costs are higher than the revenue it generates.

However, if you can successfully automate key work flows, and have a single point of control, you could be on the road to success.

As food operators scramble for new ways to overcome inflation, we’ve seen demand for multifunctional ePOS systems surge in recent months. Food and drink operators are realising that by managing multiple ordering channels from one centralised platform, and automating interactions between the customer, front of house, and the kitchen, they can improve workflows, increase the speed of service and minimise the chances of human error.

By implementing one single platform, which controls and automates everything from point-of-sale and online ordering to delivery management and stock tracking, they can gain greater control over how they run their businesses and interact with their customers.

Building direct relationships with customers

In times of crisis when the key mission is to survive and generate as much revenue as possible, it’s no surprise that business owners partner with the largest third-party platforms in the industry. For example, Deliveroo experienced a 14.2% increase in client sign-ups in recent months, and whilst these platforms offer a great channel for customer acquisition and additional revenue, they come at a cost.

The cost is huge, with platforms often charging as much as 35% commission. Yes, they’re great for generating new orders, but when you’re being robbed of up to a third of your total revenue just for the pleasure of being on their platform, there’s only breadcrumbs left by the time the food is prepared and delivered to the customer.

Restaurateurs and takeaway owners need to become more self-sufficient and less reliant on third parties for orders. Consumers use these platforms for convenience, they want to order online but if the takeaway in question doesn’t offer an online ordering facility, then they’re instantly waving goodbye to a third of their revenue.

ePOS Hybrid have estimated to have saved our clients over £2.5million in commission just by empowering them to accept direct orders through a branded website & mobile app. That’s millions of pounds going back into the profit margins of SME’s.

Breaking the consumer relationship

So what do you actually get for that 35% commission? Usually it’s an anonymous food order and little else. Delivery platforms purposely block the business-consumer relationship, giving the business little information about the consumer that has placed the order. They control the customer relationship which generates loyalty by promoting repeat orders, per example.

The easiest way to increase your profitability is by leveraging your existing customer base. Take control of your customer relationship, build loyalty and generate more direct repeat orders.

Increasing efficiency with contactless

The pandemic highlighted a real gap in the market when it came to mobile ordering technology, as reducing human contact became a priority across the board. Now customers can order from their phone straight to their table using an app or a QR code, while paying the bill there and then. Not only has this helped to significantly reduce the need for hiring new staff members within certain processes, but enabled existing employees to focus more on creating the best possible experience for consumers.

This has been incredibly valuable during the past year as it ultimately reduces wait times, streamlines workflow and takes the pressure off employees already trying to navigate through the countless changes of the way businesses operate.

There’s no doubt the hospitality sector has had a challenging time. However, it’s clear the industry is incredibly resilient and, thanks to the advancement of new technologies, which many operators have already started to adopt, we have seen automation significantly improving operations.

Not only has this resulted in greater efficiency and improvements to the customer experience, but also increased profitability – which will contribute heavily to the ongoing survival of the industry.