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The Menu – the latest insights on restaurant technology trends, customer successes, and best practices.

Virtual Connect Brings Hundreds of Restaurant Professionals to the Digital Table

Amber Leith
Head of Global Marketing

This week we hosted hundreds of customers and partners from around the world during our first Virtual Connect event. To be honest, when we came up with the idea late last summer, we didn’t really know what to expect. With a surge in work from home scenarios, would our customers be motivated to attend a fully digital event? Could we curate an experience that was flexible without sacrificing substance? After some quick deliberation we decided to give it a shot, with the primary objective of providing customers with practical and actionable information to guide the redefinition of your restaurant technology strategy for business growth and profit in extremely unusual times. Based on the response, we know it was the right call.

Rebound. Rebuild. Reimagine: New growth strategies for the restaurant industry

On Tuesday, November 10, we kicked off the event with a keynote address from Oracle Food and Beverage SVP and GM, Simon de Montfort Walker, and VP of Strategy, Chris Adams. Simon and Chris discussed the state of the industry, insights into how our customer community is performing and proactively adapting, our technology investment priorities, and how those priorities create growth opportunities for our customers, and our partners.

Simon started us off by sharing an illustration of our customer community performance, based on transaction volume trends pre-COVID, during the downward spiral and into the adaption phase. “Given the size, variety and global nature of our customer base, our data is a good barometer for industry performance,” said de Montfort Walker. “We see a clear indication of a k-shaped recovery,” he concluded.

A close look at the data proved out some obvious assumptions, but also interesting and unexpected performance from customers that would not generally be associated with the ‘top of the k.’ “It’s not as simple as quick service and suburban locations outperforming fine dining and city centers. We see tremendous rebound and frankly growth from customers that don’t fall into neat categories that commonly make headlines. For example, one of our customers who runs private sports and leisure clubs was very proactive engaging with members and is reaping the benefits of being unencumbered by on-premises technology,” said de Montfort Walker.  

The session progressed on to explore specifics around our consumer study, Dining In and Out in 2021. Key considerations for restaurateurs in respect to which demographic groups are bullish on returning to dine-in and which cohorts are keen to keep ordering takeout on a weekly and even daily basis. One interesting finding showed a significant desire to order directly from a restaurant online, or via a dedicated app versus 3rd party marketplaces in the US, versus one-third of UK Millennials preferring  3rd party apps.

Changing how you think about front- and back-of-house operations

It's clear that people want to get back to dining in at restaurants, but they are going to continue to make takeout part of their lifestyle, and they're really focused on having a positive experience in both. “The challenge is how we think about and reimagine the front-of-house, and design for all considerations,” noted de Montfort Walker. Restaurateurs have multiple touch points to consider whether you’re quick, counter or table service. You might employ mobile devices for line busting a drive thru, or a queue in a stadium. You might have the right target demographic that would benefit from leveraging real-time menu boards with promotions based on inventory or loyalty data. Regardless of the service style, or target audience, as we evolve operations it means changes to staffing and procedures. We've seen examples of table service customers that have maintained 100% of their staff, but everyone is in a totally different role. For example they have a select few service “captains” and a strong bench of runners to handle online order-at-table scenarios, click-to-collect or curbside.

Our industry is a complex one, and we can't forget the back of house, where we have a long supply chain with lots of products flowing through it that are sensitive to time, temperature and treatment. Every time we flex and change the front end, we’re impacting an expensive and complex supply chain. “At the start of COVID-19, a lot of the discussion in our industry was about potential supply chain issues,” noted de Montfort Walker. “It certainly created hurdles, especially in certain product categories, and we had to simplify and flex our menus to make it work.”

Prioritizing technology investments for growth

Getting to the top of the k is about getting back to growth. Oracle’s VP of strategy, Chris Adams shared a short list of technology investment priorities that support that mindset including:

  • Helping you extract the full value of Oracle’s next-gen cloud
  • Building solutions that bring you closer to your customers
  • Improving back of house operations by integrating customer journey data points into your operational flow
  • Extending your reporting and analytics to real-time

If I had to rate these priorities based on customer engagement and live questions during the event, I’d say the vision for business to consumer was the winner.  For a deeper look at what’s on the horizon, check out the Power Session titled: Expanding Sales Channels with Mobile and Modern APIs. The runner up would be Improving back of house operations by integrating customer journey data points into your operational flow with multiple questions on our menu simplification initiatives. You can get up to speed on all of these concepts and more anytime by accessing our on-demand Power Sessions.

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