Category Archives: Recommended Reads

The Future of Vending Machines

There is a digital revolution coming to the world of vending machines, with the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and customer engagement at the forefront.

The first vending machines were rolled out in London back in 1883, where customers could slot in their coins to receive a postcard. In the many, many years that followed not much has changed…until now.

Today’s world has customers connected like never before, with powerful processors in their mobile phones, their tablet computers and even their wrist watches.

Cash is no longer king—technology is everything. So how are vending machines moving with the times to not only remain viable, but create a better way to connect and engage companies with potential clients in the future?

Vending machine apps powered by artificial intelligence

The latest Coca-Cola Amatil vending machines to be rolled out in Australia, New Zealand and the United States want to get to know their customers.

And through innovative, artificial intelligence-driven programs, these machines will break new ground by establishing a link with the average consumer’s smartphone, and getting to know their spending habits.

Through an innovative new app, users will now be able to order up to two drinks (one for them, one for their mate) remotely and then collect them from the vending machine at a later time.

This paves the way for two-way communication, with the machines able to collect information about behaviours and personalities—and use that to deliver marketing promotions at a later date.

It will also provide unique experiences depending on where the machine is located. Machines on university grounds may employ colourful, attractive music and video displays, for example, where machines on hospital grounds are likely to be kept more sedate.

It is AI in an embryonic format, but one Coca-Cola hopes to expand on to “create intelligence experiences”, global director of digital innovation Greg Chambers said.

“My goal is to push boundaries and push the brand forward,” he said. “AI is the foundation for everything we do.”

Personalised in-store advertising

The rise of technology means vending machines now include touch screens, which can display promotions, videos, games and TV commercials. This allows for greater connectivity and engagement with the consumer.

Now, Coca-Cola Amatil is aiming for the next evolution of advertising on the retail floor, through a partnership with Google that will deliver content that is custom made for each consumer.

Trials have already begun in an American shopping centre where in-store advertising screens connect to the smartphone of people walking by, and then screens targeted ads based on spending habits and preferences.

The system works as a fusion of DoubleClick’s preference and tracking data combined with Google’s Beacon Platform, and the early trials have been encouraging.

Should these trials continue to track along positively, it is expected they could be rolled out in other outlets like movie theatres and various retail venues.

Self-filling vending machines

Soft drink companies possess some of the largest truck fleets in the world to maintain stock levels, but still, vending machines can run out of product when consumers want them most.

This is not an issue in the modern world.

The new wave of vending machines are connected to the internet, allowing owners to communicate directly with Coca-Cola Amatil. Sales are automatically recorded as a product’s count gets low, with all data streamed dynamically.

This technology is not limited to just filling the fridge, either. Service issues can be automatically reported and technicians ordered, saving time and money.

Combating the death of cash

The decline of physical cash is no longer theoretical. Citibank has recently ceased cash-handling services at six branches in Australia. ANZ has opened a cashless sales-only branch in Bondi, and even their own CEO Fred Ohlsson has admitted to going cashless. Bad news for buskers and vending machines, right? Wrong.

The decline of cash has come largely due to the rise of ‘tap-and-go’ technology installed in bank cards, allowing consumers to tap for even the smallest of purchases.

And vending machines, using technology like Coca-Cola Swipe—which allows for cashless transactions—are able to distribute products quickly and safely without the need for loose change.

Globally, vending machines are taking this a step further by accommodating mobile wallet technologies. For example, Apple Pay for iPhone and Google Wallet for Android are becoming more and more mainstream, with already more than 100,000 vending machines in the US accepting iPhone-driven payments.

“Younger generations don’t carry cash, so we’re employing ways to meet their needs,” said Derek Myers, Coca-Cola Refreshments director of vending strategy. “By 2020, mobile is going to be a mainstream way of making payment transactions.”

These are just some of the innovations moving forward, but with the faster 5G mobile network coming soon to Australia, the increased development of AI and the spread of The Internet of Things, Coca-Cola Amatil will continue to work on new solutions for vending machines across the board.

 

Five Lessons I Learned Going From Franchisee to Restaurateur

By Wally Mostafa

As part-owner of middle eastern-fusion restaurant BEKYA, my prior experience of owning four Subway franchises has been enormously helpful towards the early years of setting up a restaurant of my own.

So, here are my top tips for others looking to make the big move…

  1. Franchising teaches you how to divide up your budget

With Subway, it’s all there in the manuals and the training provided—what percentage of operating costs should go on staffing, rent, produce and other costs, and even how to turn over a reasonable profit. Having worked in the hospitality field through Subway for so long, it’s taught me what proportion of my costs should go into each area of the budget to maximise profit.

That said, with a popular franchise like Subway, location is key, as people come to you because you’re located in a convenient spot. With a restaurant, you become the destination, so the rent represents a lower percentage of total costs, wages, and training; the things that make for a great customer experience from the food to the treatment they receive, are of a higher percentage.

  1. Staffing your restaurant at the optimal level is a big part of your success

Staffing is a huge element of getting a restaurant right.  You need enough employees back-of-house creating wonderful food, and you need the right number front-of-house ensuring a great customer experience. Getting it wrong means blowing out costs, and damaging your reputation. My years with Subway have taught me how to get that balance right.

  1. Customer experience is key to fine dining—they aren’t just looking for a well-priced sandwich close to work.

In a Subway store, people come in for a quick and easy sandwich. One bad experience won’t necessarily cause a great deal of damage to your profit, but it always pays to strive for excellence. You also have some leeway when you get started, as people are ‘kinder’ to mistakes at that end of the hospitality industry. But with a restaurant, it can be one strike and you’re out. With social media, all it takes is one bad review and your restaurant sees a dip in sales. This means you need to hit it right out of the park to start with and maintain a high level of customer satisfaction. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself in damage control, trying to earn back a good reputation.

Wally_Mostafa_Bekya_Sydney_Restaurants_Cafes

 

  1. As a franchisee, a lot of the operation is made easy for you, and when you go out on your own, you need to learn new skills

With a franchise, you’ve got pre-existing supply chains and buying power when it comes to ingredients and other materials—from uniforms to cutlery and packaging. You’ve also got support on tap if anything goes wrong. If, for example, a machine breaks down, you simply call head office and it’s dealt with quickly from there. Since opening BEKYA, I’ve had to build my own network of suppliers, negotiate the best price for the best produce, and stay up to speed with pricing. Likewise, if machinery breaks down, I have contracts with the equipment suppliers, but it’s not quite as seamlessly sorted out, and definitely not as quick

5: Being a franchisee gave me the flexibility to open on my own

Owning a franchise like Subway usually provides a stable income, and that’s the appeal for a lot of owners. A Franchise system gave me the flexibility in my personal life to get set up and ready to go out on my own. It’s also taught me many of the skills I use now and it’s provided something of a blueprint to what I need to be doing to turn a profit.

Obviously, there are differences between a restaurant like BEKYA and a chain sandwich bar like Subway, but there are also many basics that stay the same, and without my experiences there, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Related Article:

From Subway to Bekya

 

What Customer Experience do you Want to Deliver?

Online Customer experiences shared through Food apps

Having a vision of an ideal customer experience should be the starting point for investing in technologies and marketing approaches to grow your business. That’s one of the key messages for hotel and restaurant owners from Deloitte’s Travel and Hospitality Industry Outlook 2017.

Touch points are part of a bigger picture

Deloitte’s report suggests that gaining loyal customers in 2017 will come from, “…a shift in thinking to make customer experience paramount.” But what is customer experience?

Customer experience is shaped by many things: the quality of your products and services, the friendliness of staff, price, convenience, your decor, the music you play…the list goes on. But what matters, even more, is putting all these elements together in a strategic way.

Insights by consulting firm McKinsey shared in the Harvard Business Review reveal that perfecting individual touchpoints with customers may not be enough, if the sum of the parts does not meet expectations. That’s where customer experience comes in, ultimately acting as the impression a person develops over time based on their entire interaction with your brand.

McKinsey found that companies that successfully manage the entire customer journey “…reap enormous rewards: enhanced customer satisfaction, reduced churn, increased revenue, and greater employee satisfaction.”

growing business customers experience online

What experiences will drive real value?

Given that customer experience is a cumulative effect, most people don’t get fed up by one bad interaction. But that doesn’t mean customers are inclined to be loyal. Most people are indifferent—willing to change their plans to take advantage of a better price, service or experience.

That means you need to envision the ideal journey for the customers you want to attract, and then prioritise efforts that will allow you to offer those experiences consistently, and at scale.

Deloitte’s report suggests brands need to provide truly valuable and memorable experiences that focus on authenticity, personalisation and immediacy. It says hotel guests, “…will define a brand by the quality of their experiences across a proliferation of touch points, including smartphones, desktops, wearable apps, over the phone, and on property”.

It takes a holistic, integrated approach to cultivate devoted customers, willing to leave positive reviews online, share your hashtags on social media or recommend your business to a friend.

 

 

Navigate new technology carefully

Deloitte’s report points to the fact that, as in many other industries, travel and hospitality leaders will be those that adapt to changes in the economy, technology and consumer mindsets.

Making the customer experience special and embedded throughout your business while riding the wave of disruption will inevitably involve investments in technology. But there is a balance to be found between being left behind and moving too quickly.

An example from the Deloitte report is the millions spent upgrading hotels with tablet kiosks similar to those used by airlines, only to be made obsolete by the rise of app-based mobile check-in.

The report acknowledges that making smart choices will only become more difficult as new technologies like virtual reality and the Internet of Things emerge. Decisions need to be driven by a clear understanding of what makes a great customer experience and what technologies will support that.

Create experiences worth sharing

The report also uses the example of a successful airline app that allows passengers to track their luggage using radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology. The app was not created to meet a significant practical need (lost luggage affects a small percentage of people) but rather to boost customers’ peace of mind: integral to a positive flying experience.

Understanding your ideal customer experience will also allow you to take full advantage of the most influential marketing platforms, including social media.

In a recent review of social media trends that matter in 2017, content marketing platform Contently highlight the fact that most people that use the internet also use social media, more often than not via their mobile, and most likely to watch or share video content.

Hotel and hospitality businesses need to understand how customers use travel and hospitality experiences to build their own personal brand; especially using image and video-based platforms like Instagram and Snapchat.

Deloitte’s report suggests that brands, “…make it a point to create experiences worth sharing in order to capitalize on the enormous exposure these platforms provide.”

Start with customer experience to succeed

It’s not possible to design and promote experiences that break through apathy or to cleverly leverage technologies and platforms to boost loyalty unless you can clearly imagine the ideal customer experience.

Using that knowledge to make decisions will ensure a cohesive customer journey where marketing promises are consistently met or exceeded in unique ways that resonate with your customers and deliver excellent hospitality experiences.

About the Author

Josh Alston

A former news hound, editor and roaming reporter for News Corp Australia for 12 years, Josh is now a freelance copywriter covering politics, innovation, technology, health, science and financial services, among other topics.

From Subway to BEKYA, with a little help from Coca Cola Amatil

Restaurant Bekya Sydney Middle Eastern Food

Mel Hearse talks to Wally Mostafa, co-founder and part-owner of restaurant BEKYA Middle Eastern Foods, about his transition from franchisee to restaurateur.

Whilst still in the franchisee business, Wally Mostafa owns one Subway restaurant and he’s made the switch to opening and running his own restaurant—BEKYA Middle Eastern Food.

BEKYA has started out strong and is already a popular eatery that’s housed in the Tramsheds Harold Park—which has recently undergone a transformation into a European-inspired food hall hosting 18 retailers and providores. He and his partners also have another two BEKYA restaurants: one in the Gateway food court, and the original outlet situated in the Greenhouse at Centennial Park.

The concept is straightforward: BEKYA prides itself on fresh, tasty and handmade middle eastern goodies.

“We use family recipes and strictly local fresh ingredients,” Wally says. “Our food techniques include pickling, slow cooking meats, home-made Egyptian flatbreads and a variety of spice mixes.”

Their space has been carefully designed with an open layout, to encourage an environment of sharing a meal—an old, honoured tradition and an expression of hospitality.

Opening the popular middle eastern eateries has involved a sometimes-steep learning curve. That said, Wally says his experiences with Subway—including his established relationship with Coca-Cola Amatil—has made for a somewhat less bumpy ride.

“Funnily enough, my Coca-Cola representative from my Subway restaurants is now the area manager where BEKYA is located, so we already know each other,” he says

“They’ve actually provided invaluable help with our set up—from helping with the bar design to recommending and supplying our beverages at the restaurant.”

Coca Cola Amatil working with

When it comes to support, Coca-Cola Amatil has plenty to provide its customers. As well as advice on beverage selection and optimal stock levels, the team also provides bar runners, straw holders, and coasters; as well as decals to place behind the bar, reminding staff how to pour the perfect beverage. Around the restaurant, Coca-Cola Amatil offers branded glassware, signage and cutlery holders.  

Then there’s the personalized support on offer. Wally says due to his relationship over the years, and particularly because of the successful high volume trading with The Greenhouse café at Centennial Park, Coca-Cola Amatil came on board with the BEKYA brand from day one.

“They pretty much did our bar design—helping design for a maximum workflow of the bar area, including the coffee section at our flagship restaurant at The Tramsheds Harold Park,” he says.

“We went to their Grinders Coffee headquarters in Leichhardt, where we got Barista Training on their machines. Perhaps more importantly, we got their Alcohol Beverage Ambassador, Michael Nouri to meet with us and come up with a middle eastern cocktail menu using middle eastern flavours such as Hibiscus, Rosemary, Thyme, and Mint.

“As our business—BEKYA—continues to grow, I have no doubt Coca-Cola Amatil will grow with us.”

Related Article:

Five lessons I learned as a restaurateur

About the Author

Melanie Hearse has been working as a freelance writer for 15 years—covering new fads in food, exercise, adventure, travel and more.

 

Marketing Your Business in the Digital Age

Successful hospitality restaurants driving online presence

Marketing your business in the digital age has its advantages and challenges. By understanding the tools available and how they can work best for your business, you can increase your reach and improve your bottom line.

To help you achieve this, we have put together a comprehensive guide on the main aspects of digital marketing and how they can help you leverage the success of your business.

Social media

Social media gives you access to a marketplace that is both global and local. These platforms give you the opportunity to build brand awareness and strengthen customer loyalty. But there are important points to keep in mind for a successful social media strategy:

  • Differentiate: What works for Facebook may not work for Twitter, and so on and so forth. When considering your social media plan, make sure you tailor your content for each platform.
  • Localise: While social media gives you a global reach, don’t forget it is the local touch that often has the greatest impact. Use geolocation tools, hashtags and mentions to establish yourself within your community. This is also a good way of building community ties.
  • Personalise: Quick response times and personalised responses are highly valued by social media users. If a follower asks you a question on social media, make sure you have the tools and resources to answer promptly. It is also a good idea to plan how you will manage customer complaints, and whether a social media policy is actively in place for your business.
  • Watch out for trends: Be it the mannequin or ice bucket challenge, staying ahead of trends on social media can help you position your brand and stay relevant. While it may not be appropriate for your business to jump on “trend bandwagons”, it pays to understand what is influencing public thought.

Melbourne-based mezcal bar Mamasita is one business that has built a strong social media presence across multiple platforms. From short Facebook videos to recipes and memes, Mamasita provides an engaging mix of content that speaks to the interests of their customers. What’s more, there is an overarching social media plan to integrate all platforms. Twitter posts link to Facebook events, Facebook to TripAdvisor and Instagram to the website. This strategy helps define the brand’s image, increase website traffic and user engagement.

Marketing presence in the digital space for hospitality industry

 

Peer review sites

Platforms like these can have a dramatic impact on your business. Like word-of-mouth marketing, these sites help spread awareness and strengthen your brand credentials––especially in the food and hospitality industry.

Today, an increasing number of sites like Urbanspoon, TripAdvisor or LocalEats are informing consumer decisions. A 2014 study by Google Consumer Surveys found that 67 per cent are influenced by online reviews. So, what does this mean for your business? To make the most of this growing form of customer engagement, follow these considerations:

  • Promotion: If your business has a good rating, advertise it. Many websites will provide you with marketing collateral to showcase your score. This is one easy way to connect your online performance to your real-world business.
  • Think in categories: Another point to keep in mind is how to ensure your listing appears in search results. It is one thing to have a good rating but if your business doesn’t appear in search results returned to users, it will be of limited use. Incorporate typical search filters like “date night”, “family friendly” and “budget” into your business profile to help with optimisation.   

The cafe 2 Fat Ladies in New South Wales, for instance, is number one of its category on TripAdvisor and also has a strong Zomato presence. By actively responding to reviews—both negative and positive—the management show that they care about customer feedback. Importantly too, there is personality to their comments. Be it “Thank you for calling in for a visit. The quiche is pretty awesome” or “Can’t go past the good ole ham, cheese & tomato sandwich”, the cafe has a warm and personal tone that helps differentiate them from their competitors.

Digital content

Another way to market your business in the digital age is through content. Providing value-adding content that enriches your reader’s experience is a powerful way to build customer loyalty and strengthen yourself as a thought leader.

This can be achieved regardless of the size of your business. A small business, for instance, might focus on creating a monthly email newsletter while a larger company may consider creating a specialised blog or digital magazine. Think about what will work best for your scale and resources. Here are some other considerations:

  • Plan ahead: Be it a monthly newsletter or a daily blog, it is crucial to organise your content ahead of time. A blog that begins weekly but drops off to every now and again will do little to promote your business. Creating an editorial calendar is a useful way to bank up ideas and structure future posts or news items.
  • Don’t overdo it: It is important to be realistic about your capabilities and priorities. Setting up a high-tech food magazine may not be within your reach but perhaps it is possible to send out a personalised recipe once a month. What’s important is that you provide high-quality content that speaks to your customer’s needs and interests.
  • Integrate with social media: If you do decide to use digital content to promote your business, make sure that it is shared across all your social media platforms.

Abbey Beach Resort has been able to build customer loyalty via its newsletter, blog and integrated social media strategy. The resort shares regularly updates to its followers on upcoming deals and also invites them to share their own content. This commitment to digital content has allowed the business to define its brand voice and strengthen customer relationships.

Digital media has made marketing more accessible, scalable and personalised than ever before. Be it social media, digital content or peer review sites, there is a wide range of platforms that can help improve your business—now is your chance to use them.

 

About the Author

Melissa Kitson is a bilingual journalist who has worked for the Buenos Aires Review, Fodor’s Travel Guides and Oxford University Press.

 

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