A massive amount of information can be garnered by pub operators from just a brief digital interaction with a customer via a site’s electronic point of sale systems (EPoS). Industry experts say technologies developed for other industries are rapidly being adapted for the pub trade. Think drones, online food delivery services and recruitment apps. It can even help pubs be better prepared for Brexit.
Digital feedback systems are evolving with the desires from publicans to understand their customers as accurately and quickly as possible.
For Gary Goodman, the chief executive and founder of Yumpingo, data is absolutely essential for pubs to be able to improve their customer service.
He says: “We’re now getting to that point where big data can really transform operations. That’s been the biggest shift that we’ve seen in the past six months. Historically, the average pub or restaurant was getting about 20 different pieces of feedback from guests on a monthly basis.”
Providers like Yumpingo offer immediate feedback from customers. This is compared to sporadic or delayed feedback that can either come via faceless internet reviews or completed feedback survey that predated EPoS.
Goodman’s company now delivers clients more than 8,000 pieces of feedback per location with in-moment one-minute reviews.
“It’s that data that’s enabling them to really get certainty of how guests feel when they leave their pub or restaurant,” Goodman says. For Yumpingo, the key is increasing the speed of the feedback operation. It will launch its own pay-at-the-table solution over the next several months, he says.
“Customers just want to pay and go. In the next 12 months, there will be a platter of different platforms coming out to make that process smarter and more seamless,” Goodman adds.
Time-saving features are integral to what makes a pub stand out in a competitive field, according to e-commerce provider Lightspeed. “You want a system that optimises every aspect of your business, both front of house and back of house,” a spokesperson explains.
“When your EPoS has features like mobile payments, customer profiles and sales analytics, the result is that customers wait less to pay, your staff members have more personalised interactions with them and you’re enabled to analyse sales data and restock intelligently.”
In a testimonial for Lightspeed, publican Guarav Khanna, of the Gladstone pub in Camden, north London, describes how being able to use an iPad-based system “makes everything easier and mobile” for pub staff.
“The ability to select promotions, variations, flavours, allergies – all of this makes for the sort of memorable and personalised service our customers look for,” he adds.
As for the future, John Oakes, chief executive for Revenue Management Solutions (RMS), says the next few years hold opportunity “for some tech-savvy advancements”. He believes this could include delivery via drones, tablet-based solutions, kiosks, and other futuristic-sounding technologies.
He says: “With continuing advancements in machine learning, artificial intelligence and cloud computing, we will see the importance of capturing data about your customers become pivotal in your restaurant’s success.”
Understandably, existing EPoS technologies have been praised for taking the guesswork out of the business. In particular, publicans can find the technology useful in tackling the staffing issues businesses experience as workers take time off and trade fluctuates throughout the year.
Accurate and in-depth data has replaced gut instinct for most operators, a positive shift that means hospitality venues can effectively track when they are at their busiest. With the use of EPoS, managers can rota their workers to meet demand, saving time and reducing stress.
Data capture is key
Technology can also be used to hone the best stocking strategy for a pub or bar. Oakes explains: “The data captured in every EPoS system is key in purchasing, inventory and menu management, and real efficiency can be achieved through detailed menu analysis and re-engineering items based on known facts.” Integration with other technology can provide further insight, revealing where extra efficiencies and thus cost-savings can be made.”
Several operators have already found a preferred and trusted system. One such is bar and restaurant brand Bird, whose managing director Paul Hemming tells The Morning Advertiser the business has been using Comtrex in its sites since its inaugural opening in 2014. “It does the job we need it to do,” he adds.
A representative for Lightspeed, which provides services to some of the country’s top pubs including Soho’s KU Bar, adds: “EPoS technology reflects changes in consumer expectations and behaviour. For instance, mobile payment terminals reflect the modern customers’ desire for flexibility and immediacy.”
According to Lightspeed, the resulting boost to operational efficiency has been the most unexpected advantage. A spokesperson explains: “Traditionally, pubs have been resistant to change and were often late adopters of new technologies. The benefits of using new EPoS technologies for pubs, however, cannot be ignored.”
Change is in the air. Some industry chiefs go as far as to say EPoS will be an antidote for staffing challenges caused by Brexit next spring. Pubs must adapt with the times.
RMS’s Oakes says: “With Brexit now only a year away, its effect on the availability of labour and on-trade tariffs is expected to be felt in earnest throughout the hospitality industry. Although these events are beyond their control, pub operators can rest assured that help is at hand if they’re prepared to look a little closer at their EPoS data.”
Anticipating change and tackling it with proactive methods is crucial, Oakes adds.
In his view, operators cannot just have one solution to a problem but must plan according to different scenarios, with plenty of options to fall back on. Brexit is a key example.
He continues: “In the event that trade is adversely affected as feared, and the tradit-ional supply of crucial ingredients is cut, operators will need other options. However, if they don’t plan ahead, many risk being part of a stampede towards domestic suppliers.
“They need to be building alternative relationships now, using a true picture of their operation based on total data integration. Complete analysis, using integrated data, will reveal vulnerabilities like this so operators can be ready for the inevitable challenges ahead.”
For publicans daunted by the prospect of reliance on EPoS, a representative for Lightspeed says the leap of faith is not just worth it, but is also a necessity the industry is moving towards.
Help for workers under pressure
The spokesperson says: “EPoS technology is unquestionably the largest obstacle to overcome for any pub. On the surface, it’s costly and risky, and unnecessary but the direction of the industry suggests otherwise.
“Pubs and restaurants typically require their staff to think and work under pressure at an exceptionally fast pace to meet the modern customers’ expectations.
“EPoS technology enables them to help staff meet and surpass those expectations without burning out.
“Consider your EPoS provider as a strategic partner – choose one that values innovation and staying ahead of the trends. As new trends emerge, you’ll be in a position to implement them seamlessly and continue delivering memorable customer experiences.”