The Power of Integrated Hospitality Tech

The Power of Integrated Hospitality Tech

The world of hospitality tech is vast. There is a seemingly never-ending list of technologies that can fit into our businesses to help do things “better” than before. Over the last 10 years we have been spoilt for choice. There are solutions out there for recruitment, rotas, communications and team engagement. Not to mention solutions for payroll, produce orders, tracking financials, marketing and customer engagement. Our tills have all become more automated, more accurate, and more compliant. You want a robot serving your guests, juggling dishes whilst telling jokes? Not a problem. We even have excellent data guys like Tenzo and Tahola that pull all the data we have stacked into our businesses into one place, giving clarity and visibility of all the benefits gained from this technical revolution.

 

Is all of this technology a good thing? Is it good for the customer and, critically, is it good for our businesses? Clearly every business is different. Even though I don’t see my local traditional Italian rolling out waiter bots or my independent watering hole taking on a business analytics suite just yet, there is a different mixture of hospitality tech that is the right fit for most of us. This will depend on the scale, style and priorities of the business. However, most businesses have come to understand that doing nothing will likely result in being less efficient, less productive and being left behind our competitors.

 

When looking at what tech is right for your business, one of the key places to start is by considering what your priorities are. Maybe it’s labour cost saving, growing sales, marketing, or a smooth EPoS system. As technology has become better and more critical to our industry, so has its consolidation. There have been some excellent innovations in hospitality that tackle the unique challenges we face. Yes, there’s still a significant amount of innovation and solutions being developed. We’ve also seen some giants of the technology service sector who can offer most operators pretty much everything – all under one roof as a multi-purpose tech supplier. You can now get your schedules, payroll, tills, F&B platform, analytics and more from just one supplier. This sounds like a positive thing for the industry: everything you need in one place and on one bill. Big tech has recently been on the acquisition trail, snapping up some of the best and brightest prospects in the hospitality tech world. In the last year, we have seen hospitality’s leading providers in training, compliance and ordering brought under the same roof as event booking and labour planning platforms in one big tech.

 

The question to consider is: can innovation, value for money, customer service or user flexibility ever be improved by the consolidation of tech? Unlikely. Innovation happens when specialists in their field are given the freedom to continually perfect the areas that they excel in. Customers benefit most when they can form close relationships with their suppliers, acting as the external voice that feeds into the product development.

 

The consolidated approach works well for those who want the mediocracy of everything. The under one roof offering tends to give operators one outstanding product, but a disappointing “everything else”. An operator can get one incredible piece of kit, but they’ll miss out on the best of everything else. Take Yapster for example: it’s brilliant and integrated with everything. If you want the best for team comms and leadership, go speak to Yapster. Yapster is an independent business with the best-in-class tech. Even though you could get a product from a consolidator, who can put team comms and EPos on the same invoice, there’s a sacrifice. You’ll likely end up with a weaker team comms platform in your business and a mediocre EPoS.

 

S4labour is 100% focused on being the best people system in the market. There is no other leadership, development or account management team more ingrained and experienced in hospitality productivity than S4labour. Over half of the winners at this years Publican Awards use S4labour, showing just how the best in the industry, who value the productivity of their teams above other tech, use S4labour. S4labour is also integrated with everything else in the category of market leading products. You can have the best people system, integrated with the best till systems, integrated with the best ATS, forward pay, training platform, marketing, comms, tipping etc and seamlessly link it all with S4labour.

 

By taking a sidestep around the “under one roof” consolidations, you will find a sea of the best of the best and you won’t need to compromise on any part of your technological priorities. The wonderful thing about everything that doesn’t sit with the consolidators, is just how well it all works together and how good we have all become at making the customer experience seamless and integrated with each other. Hedging your tech suppliers really is the only way to ensure you get an uncompromised solution.

Malvern Inns—Current Challenges

Malvern Inns—Current Challenges

I think we had all hoped that life would return to normal post-pandemic, but it certainly feels like the repercussions of the Coronavirus are set to last far longer than the virus itself. Lockdown gave us the head space to plan and give real thought to how we can improve our people, training and innovate our business. We were optimistic about our place in the wider economic recovery and the feel-good bounce back of the nation. But all of this has now been completely overtaken by a cocktail of challenges that have entered every area of the business. I don’t know whether the lack of staff, and in particular kitchen team, are the biggest challenge. Or, whether the constant failure of the supply chain is now taking more management time. The result of all the challenges is that, as a management team, firefighting has taken over and we are not spending enough time on innovation and growth. Before we know it, VAT and rates will be back to normal and we will have a cost base that has grown to a point where we are not making enough money. This article is a reminder of what we are now trying to focus on in order to drive our business for the long term. How quickly we will get round to them is a different question!

Recruitment and Training:

At the moment, our key priority is recruitment and training. Without the right team our senior team will be in the weeds. Currently we can’t meet the demand on most days—particularly on Sunday. So, being able to recruit and train to meet Sunday demand is a priority. It does seem to be getting better. The end of Furlough has triggered some people to look for work, but more importantly for us has been young people (students or school leavers) who are now wanting to get back into the workplace. This is building up our team one person at a time. Even yesterday one of my managers said 1/3 of the candidates turned up for an interview, which is a higher number than normal. Our real challenge, though, is how we up our game in the long term on recruitment. My guess is that how we have recruited historically will not be good enough for the future, and we will need to connect better with young people and be more persuasive about the personal benefits of some time spent in hospitality.

Pay:

Pay is a real conundrum at the moment. I think we are all worried about ratcheting up pay in the short term and then being unable to claw it back, but equally wanting to find the right level for the long term. I am really puzzled by the challenge we seem to face in tips. I don’t think that our staff actually understand what they earn when they add base pay and tips together, and that we have lost staff who think that they are being paid more in other jobs when the opposite is true. We are seriously thinking about whether we can morph our service charge into price and remove tips from the equation, but it is another big step that may then prove to be wrong. Pay matters and we need to help people understand the pay they already receive before piling more on the top.

Pricing:

As our costs go up, whether it be staff; electricity; VAT; rates; food; drink; or all of the above, we need to decide how much to put our prices up and when to do it. My straw poll suggests that most people are considering a 5-10% price rise currently, but we want to do it in a way that ensures we lose the least volume we can. So, a lot of thought needs to go in to when we do it and which lines we do it on. We also need to spend more time than we have looking for more meat light dishes, which will both reduce cost and fulfil the market move to a lower level of meat in our diet. But of all the 8 blokes I had dinner with yesterday, only 1 chose a meat light dish… chicken pizza!

Productivity:

The government seems to have made it very clear that they are not going to let in heaps of Europeans to help us out of our staffing challenge, so we are all going to have to find customer friendly ways of driving productivity. We have not yet gone down the self-ordering app or self-payment app road, but we will have to look at all the IT led productivity solutions and pick the right solution for our customers in time. We also need to address some of the basics that have slipped a bit, such as how well we deploy staff and how we are managing them to be as productive as possible on shift. This is the challenge of the firefighting regime.

The Planet:

We have just signed up to the Peach led Net Zero regime. I don’t yet know what it entails but recognise that we need to do the right things in the right way, and I know our customers will be supportive. I also think we can make some more steps in packaging waste and our use of plastics, but this will become more and more something we need to work with our local suppliers to solve.

Final Remarks:

Overall, our sales have held up pretty well over the last few months. In truth we have had the demand there—if only we could fulfil it. However, the looming cost moves means that we need to address our core profitability even more urgently, as we know the time from now until April will come quickly. Hopefully we will be fully staffed by then and have made enough moves on the four P’s: pay, price, productivity and planet to make sure we have maintained our underlying profitability.