Tech Talk #1

By Angus Winchester

 

So, the Pandemic is undoubtedly the biggest challenge that the modern hospitality industry has ever faced and the impact of it will resonate forever. From beloved venues that will never reopen to lives and livelihoods of staff being lost. Its hard to see any positives in this and while people talk of the “opportunities” that exist these consist mainly of well-funded companies snapping up cheap properties and sadly shuttered businesses. For the rest of us it has become a matter of surviving and using our well tested sense of resilience and adaption to do so. But as words like Pivot and Reset are bandied around so there is chance for us to examine and refine our attitudes to and use of perhaps an even bigger concept than pandemic and that is Technology.

 

Technology is a behemoth that is (or has the power to) upend and revolutionise just about every human activity in the developed world.  And when we study technological adoption and diffusion of technological ideas we can see that the pandemic has severely disrupted and also speed up many bars’ and restaurants’ relationship with technology. Over the next few newsletters I will be investigating some key technological tools and changes that I feel if explored and adapted then have the potential to help shape the hospitality industry in the future. I personally have always been an ‘early adopter’ of technology and truly believe that embracing innovation is a key to thriving in the new normal of the future.

Perhaps the best place to start is the easiest to create and in many places required or recommended – the QR code. These “improved” barcodes when scanned send the mobile phone user to a website where one can view a website or a PDF living on that website. Initially used by the manufacturing industry they quickly became the quickest and easiest option when hospitality venues were advised to have disposable menus to help reduce infection.

I have been lucky enough to fly several times during the pandemic and due to my normally prolific frequent flyer status I can hang out in Business Lounges. Last time I flew I scanned a QR code on my table, read the menu and ordered and a kind person bought it straight to my table. Safe and seamless and alas sterile and I am hoping that this level of technological adaption does not do away with the banter and connection provided by a human being. But the advantages of having a QR code menu at least instead of a paper/leather/diamond studded physical object is obvious.

 

Its cost efficient as you don’t have to print expensive but delicate (and stealable) physical menus. It is also obviously more environmentally sustainable as it uses no physical components. It is far easier to update as its just a PDF or webpage as opposed to ream of paper. Plus of course at the minute it’s the far safest option for guests and staff to prevent infection.

Now I like my physical menus but as a way of conveying large amounts of information they can be cumbersome (many more pages to flick through and often hard to read in the low lighting most bars favour these days) and I would love to see the use of QR codes to supplement paper to provide everything from deeper information on products listed to suggested pairings and maybe even pictures to help choose.

 

I feel we have not even begun to scratch the surface of how technology can help revolutionise the menu and enhance the guest experience and if it is taken this horrible disruption to force us to explore this opportunity then when searching for anything positive then I will cling to this. And if it helps open our eyes to the many other aspects of our businesses that technology can help with (see future months’ articles) then this reset will be bearable. Horrible but bearable.