As the Covid-19 restrictions begin to lift, and we tentatively ease our way back to some kind of normality, our resilient hospitality industry is working at full speed to adapt to reopening, to try and recuperate their losses from a turbulent year, and to keep customers and staff safe.
Right now, we are seeing chaos as businesses large and small hurry to solve the myriad issues related to reopening – including the social distancing measures.
At Lolly, we are responding to many queries and our aim is to help businesses build back stronger and more agile, by effectively implementing technology solutions in a manner that will have measurable benefits.
In order to support the number of requests and enquiries, we are also having to adapt our way of working here at Lolly HQ in order to fulfil client expectations and help hospitality get back on its feet, as fast as possible. We are embracing the chaos and helping to create calm, efficient hospitality management and service.
So, what are the challenges we and our clients are facing and what solutions are being found to prepare businesses for the evolving reality of a post-pandemic world?
First and foremost comes safety. In order to comply with Covid-19 safety measures, particularly social distancing, a range of technology solutions are becoming increasingly popular.
Contactless card payments have been in demand throughout the pandemic. The trend we are seeing right now is for outside dining, as the restrictions begin to lift and we head towards the warmer summer months. Large locations (catering for bigger volumes) and busy restaurants are now introducing tableside ordering – enabling ordering, delivery and payment.
Fast-service restaurants, cafes, corporate catering and pop-ups are investing in integrated pre-order apps to help speed up service and stagger sales by allowing customers to order and pay in advance and schedule their pick-up time to quickly pop by and grab their meals or drinks. Self-serve kiosks and tablets are another go-to for businesses seeking to increase footfall, reduce queues and support social distancing measures.
Time is of the essence
With all the useful options for software and hardware to help social distancing and boost sales, our biggest challenge currently is that everyone wants to go live with their systems now. Given that we usually work to a lead time of four weeks for a full install, customers are now wanting everything set up in just three to four days! They want their technology in place as soon as possible in order to maintain social distancing and speed up orders to gain back lost revenue. Our team is working hard fulfilling orders, completing installations and responding to requests as fast as possible. All the time keeping our clients (and their customers) happy.
Another challenge we are facing, particularly in order to meet demand for fast installs is the shortage of supply of hardware terminals. Clients want products installed straight away but we are struggling to get quick turnaround with new suppliers, which means we are often having to turn to new suppliers.
Hospitality providers themselves are also struggling with their supply chains, due to uncertainty around demand. This is not business as usual. Customer numbers are unpredictable and the latest news or warnings over new variants can have a swift impact on guest numbers. Many restaurants and their suppliers are unable to know exactly how much food they need to order in, and we’re hearing of venues selling out of meals and drinks.
Like us, many are also having to change their usual suppliers in order to get the stocks that they need – adding additional stress and hassle at what is already a very difficult time.
Staffing issues are another issue for the hospitality industry right now. International staff, particularly in the larger UK cities, played a huge role in keeping the industry running. Many overseas workers have gone back home in the wake of Covid-19 and Brexit, so as businesses re–open they are struggling to hire staff fast enough.
Hospitality providers aren’t used to managing such long stagnant periods, followed up by going back to work at very short notice. It has been hard for them to estimate timings and staffing needs.
Customer dynamics have changed too. Many customers who would, pre-pandemic, be hesitant or unable to utilise technology solutions for ordering and payment have had to learn to use and embrace these tools. This has greatly levelled the technology playing field and is enabling businesses to expand their customer base and effectively utilise contactless, self-serve and pre-order solutions knowing that they will generate return.
Facing up to uncertainty
It’s hard for business owners to make precise decisions on anything right now, as they are unsure on numbers and needs after lockdown. Planning menus for unexpected numbers of guests is challenging. However, many hospitality owners and chefs have responded to this issue by streamlining menus and specialising. This is improving their differentiation and reducing waste, which is set to be all-important for success in the post-pandemic world.
Hospitality is having to mobilise on many fronts right now to survive and thrive in a chaotic situation. Affordable technology solutions, expertly selected for each unique environment, are key during this challenging time, and for the long-term future of hospitality.
Decision making is hard, across all aspects of business, but we are seeing creativity, positivity and strength from every corner of the industry.
Our entire industry has had to change its way of working over the pandemic, and many of these adaptations will remain, yet new systems are also being embraced that will improve and shape the way we experience hospitality. Out of the current disorder will emerge a future-ready, vibrant hospitality industry.