Tag Archives: food

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

 

High Expectations and Hospitality Aggregators: How to Manage Reputation

Online Digital Hospitality experience

The digital economy has opened up ways for people to interact with hospitality businesses. What began with booking a hotel room or ordering pizza online has continued to evolve at a rapid pace, and it’s not likely to slow down anytime soon.

App-based aggregator sites that leverage information (rather than actual goods or services) have become a familiar and trusted presence, mostly because they offer customers improved choices, convenience and value.

The question for hotels and restaurants is: how do you leverage aggregators without diminishing your own influence online?

Online spend will continue to increase, especially on mobile devices

The first thing to recognise is that it’s impossible to be in the hotel or food service business without a digital strategy. Online shopping is now a pervasive part of the decision-making and purchasing process for customers across all industries.

Market research company Reportbuyer analysed the global online takeaway food delivery market and estimated it would increase significantly in the years to 2020. This is due to continued increases in urban populations, spending by the global middle class, and increased smartphone usage.

Additionally, a report from Deloitte on the outlook for travel and hospitality in 2017 forecasts that people will continue to turn to online booking sites to compare options and find deals.

It advises the battle between online sites and hotels chasing direct bookings will be influenced by those who can provide “best-in-class shopping and booking experiences (particularly on the mobile front)…”

Challenges of aggregator sites for hospitality businesses

Aggregator sites offer customers greater choice and transparency, but the downside for hospitality businesses is that they commodify your offering, create distance and remove control.

They limit the way a business is presented and rely on their own data to match people with options or provide recommendations. If the aggregator also manages the logistics of food delivery, it exposes a business to customer service problems they cannot directly remedy.

This makes it more difficult for hotels and restaurants to differentiate themselves, deliver integrated cross-channel marketing, or provide a joined-up customer experience.

Aggregators have been successful in building brand recognition, and research by McKinsey shows that platforms are sticky—that is, once customers sign up they are unlikely to switch.

That poses an additional problem of how to choose between the growing number of popular aggregators, and maintaining an accurate presence on multiple sites.

Food Apps Foodora UberEats Deliveroo Menulog

Understand and leverage the appeal

Despite the potential negatives, aggregators offer enormous potential to reach customers and increase sales, and businesses can’t escape the fact that customers enjoy being empowered.

Hotels and restaurants can find ways to benefit from aggregators, and maintain a strong influence over customer experience and online reputation.

Firstly, even if customers ultimately purchase via an aggregator, it doesn’t mean they aren’t using their smartphones to research buying decisions. A stand-alone business website is still a powerful marketing tool.

Content on aggregator and stand-alone sites should always be up-to-date, but your business website should be the definitive and best source of information. Ultimately, it should drive home your points of difference. Use the control you do have to give customers a richer experience.

In the same way that customers in-store rely on menu boards to make decisions, online customers want to carefully consider your menu before they buy. They seek beautiful photos of the meals, descriptions and increasingly, specific information about ingredients and advice about nutrition.

Nielsen research on Australian consumers found an increasing trend of online customers researching grocery purchases online by visiting a manufacturer’s site or app directly, rather than relying solely on the retail site.

Ensure the design, speed and user experience of your own booking and ordering interfaces match that of the best mobile apps, and invest in online advertising and content marketing that boosts your visibility in online searches.

Cultivate your community and contacts to manage experiences

Customers trust aggregators because they offer transparency and make purchasing decisions simpler. But your business’s perceived value within an aggregator platform starts with building a connection with your customers outside of it.

Find ways to market your hotel or restaurant that focuses on fostering relationships at every stage of the customer journey.

For example, social media communities where people are encouraged to engage, share their experiences, and generate their own content will allow to forge an emotional connection to your brand.

Email marketing is incredibly valuable, if used well, to maintain contact with previous customers, provide tailored deals and continue a conversation that enhances brand loyalty.

Meet your customers where they are, and build your own brand

Online booking and food delivery aggregators make life easier for customers but necessitate that hospitality businesses put more energy into strategies that build relationships with customers before and after a transaction.

By doing so, hotels and restaurants can maintain a strong online presence that minimises the disruption caused by third-party sites, all the while continuing to meet customers’ high expectations for accessibility.

About the Author

Lana de Kort is a published author and business writer with over 20 years experience working with industry, commerce and community.  In 2014 she co-founded a network of over 21 writers across Australia.

Top 5 Foodie Trends for 2017

Dining Concept Hospitality Organic Food Harvest

Today’s food lovers are discerning and spoilt for choice, making it essential for businesses in the food industry to stay on trend.  At Coca-Cola Amatil, we know time is precious, so to make sure your menu offers what customers are looking for, we’ve done the searching for you.  

Millennials are key

If you want to know what’s driving the current trends, you can look squarely at the millennial population.  Their ethnic diversity and connection with wellbeing and global cuisines is having a big impact on food choices.

While tasty food will always be in vogue, trends move quickly and to remain competitive, you need your finger on the pulse….or do we mean dulse?

According to industry experts, these are the key foodie trends to embrace for this year.

Hospitality food trends 2017 restaurants cafes eatery

 

  1.  Sea vegetables

A Forbes article shows that Pinterest found a massive 336 per cent increase last year in searches involving the word “veggies” relating to comfort food.   As people eat less meat, vegetables are being moved to the centre of the plate. While this makes quite a statement in itself, a standout in this vegetable trend is healthy dulse or seaweed.

There are a variety of seaweeds that chefs are incorporating into their dishes.  With a strong umami flavour (recently recognised as the fifth taste), seaweed is being used as a salt substitute for adding flavour to a dish or for snacking.

  1. Hyper-regional food

No longer satisfied with broad traditional cuisines, consumers are looking for that authentic taste of a particular locality. Customers are drawn to dishes that are exceptional and have a story behind them.  Super specific regional foods and dining—such as South American home cooking, Cuban restaurants and Nordic bakeries—are grabbing people’s attention.

Although the variety of dishes seems limited only by the imagination, authenticity is at the heart of this trend.

  1. Ferment it

It’s all about your gut in 2017. No longer confined to the jar at the back of the fridge, fermented vegetables have reasserted their place at the table and are claimed to be beneficial for maintaining good gut flora.

Innova Market Insights has found that consumers are increasingly making choices about what they eat based on what makes them feel good.  Side serves of Kimchi, Kombucha and Yucatan pickles are not only fashionable but will also look after your customer’s stomachs— literally. Good for them, and good for business.

  1.   Snacks

Sitting down for set meal times is no longer the go.  There is a blurring between meal times that means snacking is increasingly popular and practical for busy people on the go.  

Grazing options on your menu give people who want to snack a choice.  Try share plates or bite size meals to eat in or take out.  Empanadas, tacos or kebabs combine snack size portions with real flavour potential, and as a result, are all topping the trend charts in 2017.

  1.  Breakfast revised

Breakfast is also getting an update. International food and restaurant consultants, Baum and Whiteman, report that not only is breakfast turning into brunch, but the very texture of breakfast is changing and has moved away from softer foods such as eggs and oatmeal.  Plates include anything from crispy chorizo to chimichurri.  Even crunchy fried chicken is getting a look in.

A food service industry research firm called Technomic predicts that customers will expect to see more Asian, African and Middle Eastern ingredients and spices incorporated into breakfast menus.  These heartier options not only make breakfast an all-day meal choice, but are being touted as an excellent hangover cure as well.  

Now you know…

Knowing what your customers are hungry for is as simple as keeping on trend.  Whether it’s menu choices or pickles on the side, make sure your customers are aware that you not only know what is trending in food, but that you can serve it as well.

Lana de Kort

Lana de Kort is a published author and business writer with over 20 years experience working with industry, commerce and community. In 2014 she co-founded a network of over 21 writers across Australia.