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Four up-and-coming trends in the restaurant business

Cupcakes from Teacosy are sold alongside angel figurines and furniture.

As technology advances and business concepts evolve, an increasing number of F&B entrepreneurs and service solution providers are thinking out-of-the-box and making life easier for customers.

By innovating, F&B entrepreneurs enjoy reduced overheads, better customer service and additional revenue. Customers feel more satisfied too. In this article, we chart four recent trends in the F&B industry that have dramatically improved how businesses are run.

If you’re a restaurateur or cafe owner, do look at these trends and consider implementing them in your business.

Managing orders wirelessly

The wireless paging system from Food Icon.

Customers often struggle to get the attention of busy waitresses. Staff also find the handling of order tickets a struggle at times.

To solve these problems, food eateries are adopting new wireless communication devices from companies like Food Icon to make the ordering process a breeze. Swensen’s and Aston Express are some of its customers.

One of its products, Wi-Serve, is a paging service that allows restaurant operators to quickly and easily contact their patrons. It can be used to inform customers when an order is ready to be collected or when a table is available.

Consisting of one transmitter with many handheld coaster pagers, restaurant operators can enter the pager number into the transmitter and press ‘send’, allowing patrons to receive the alert on their coaster pagers immediately.

Says Vincent Shi, co-founder of the company: “The increasingly tight labour market is a strain on the F&B industry. Paging technology can help F&B operators improve productivity and efficiency in spite of limited manpower.”

“Matured countries such as Japan and Korea which encountered manpower shortage many years before Singapore, are heavily reliant on paging technology in their F&B industry.”

F&B outlets are no longer just selling food

Running mixed businesses from the same outlet is becoming a more popular trend among F&B operators. TeaCosy is one example: It serves comfort food and sells angel figurines, lifestyle accessories and classic vintage furniture at the same time.

Daphne Tan, owner of Teacosy, has two retail partners housed within its premises: Ten Thousand Angels (angel figurines, lifestyle accessories) and A Thousand Tales (Scandinavian retro furniture).

“We were all friends to begin with and found that each had our strengths to offer which complemented the space we had. We wanted to offer something unique and niche for consumers, especially those who shop for the angels in-store because they come in and marvel at the ambiance. We also give them an opportunity to dine in-house.”

Pocket Full Of Posies, another unique concept store in the form of a floral retail cum café has outlets in VivoCity and Plaza Singapura.

From the very beginning, they’ve merged both concepts into one as economics dictated it. They worked with the landlords who were able to think-out-of-the-box and allow a unit to be mixed-use.

Online reservations are making restaurants more efficient

Reserveit.sg is a pioneer of online restaurant reservation in Singapore.

When competing with a crowd of hungry diners, the best way to get into a restaurant is to reserve a table. But finding the right restaurant and then making a reservation isn’t always easy. That is where online reservation websites like Reserveit.sg and Chope are built to the benefit of both diners and F&B operators.

Reserveit.sg enables diners to search for the most suitable restaurant, reserve a table, and receive confirmation almost instantly. This differs greatly from the usual telephone call to book a table.

Jesper Gustafsson, director of business development, says: “We have seen a steady increase both in participating restaurants and members on our website. It is only in Asia that restaurants and diners have not utilised this tool for their mutual benefit, convenience and efficiency.”

Describing the benefits that such technology entails, he says: “Using such a system helps diners eliminate time calling multiple restaurants, not having their calls answered, waiting for the email reply in vain or worry that the staff didn’t take the reservation down accurately.”

He adds: “Restaurant operators increase their revenue by getting more reservations and are able to organize their restaurant and optimise seating times and seating arrangements in ways not possible with the pen-and-paper system that they are used to.”

Payments over the cloud

Ordering and paying for food at eateries is becoming simpler and more convenient with the integration of new technology into the ordering process. A good case study would be eOrderNPay, a cloud-based menu ordering and payment solution developed by B-Secure Technologies and Swiff.

eOrderNPay cuts down waiting time for diners by providing interactive e-menus, as well as a faster checkout and payment process. F&B operators would also gain from a reduction in overheads and indirectly provide better customer service in terms of shorter waiting time and an efficient order-payment system.

Here’s how the system works:

  • Customers browse the eMenu, select his choices and place his orders all from a tablet.
  • Payment transactions takes seven seconds to complete with a tap and swipe of a credit card over 3G or WiFi. The transaction is highly secure and authenticated.
  • An eReceipt will be sent to the customer’s email account instantaneously.

Conclusion

Restaurateurs and café owners have been traditionally slow to adapt new technology. But that is slowly changing.

Helped by the rising ubiquity of 3G and WiFi Internet access, and also the openness of younger entrepreneurs who are less resistant to technology and different business models, the F&B industry is prime for a shake-up.

Rising rental costs do also play a part — entrepreneurs are forced to think out of the box and merge seemingly disparate businesses into one.



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